There’s a liminal state with which I imagine writers are well aware; there’s revisions and polishing to be done on an otherwise completed project, but the mind has already moved on to preparations for the next one. Stranded between two fictional worlds, the overtaxed writer’s brain can’t seem to properly concentrate on either, with the result that no work winds up getting done. It’s like sitting in front of the shelves of some vast library, so overwhelmed by the choice in front of you that ultimately you don’t read anything.
That’s where I am at the moment, I’m afraid. I’ve drafted two plays so far this year – an election-themed one-act set in my home town, and a full-length play about sibling white rappers from Bay Ridge. Given the timeliness of the former, that’s what I’d concentrated on revising. That piece is now as polished as I can make it on my own (an awful lot of additional work happens once you’re in production, which by definition can only happen once you’re in production). Logically, I should therefore focus on the revisions needed for Bay Ridge Lotus. (Yes, that’s the title. I’m rather proud of it.) But apart from some cosmetic adjustments – untangling wordy dialogue, cutting redundant scene beats, that sort of thing – the work that needs to be done requires rethinking characters that I’ve already worked out, and inserting moments into a dramatic framework that’s already full as it is. Rightly or wrongly, my brain has classified this piece as “done,” and it’ll only go back to work on a new draft if I drag it there kicking and screaming.
The easier choice would be to dive into the research for the next play. I’m going to be coy about exactly what it’s about – I don’t want to ruin the surprise – but I’ve been making significant progress in terms of mapping it out mentally. And I have already done some preliminary research, all of it on topics well loved by me, so it’s far from a chore. No, it’s the sheer amount of reading awaiting me that gives me pause. Here’s the reading list as it stands right now, and as with all such research reading lists, it’s growing all the time:
Ian Mortimer’s Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England
Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punishment
Spencer’s The Faerie Queene
Arden Shakespeare editions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Two Noble Kinsmen
Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (in Middle English, obviously)
It’s a good thing the Labor Day weekend is coming up. I need the free time.