Rage Plays

There’s a well-known adage when it comes to the creative life: “write drunk, edit sober.” (It’s usually misattributed to Hemingway, who never actually said this, but he was adept at both writing and drinking so it’s an easy mistake to make.) The idea behind it is not that alcohol abuse is a good thing, of course, but that the initial drafting of a piece needs to be done in a state of heightened emotion, carried along by passion.  The finessing of a piece, the polishing and restructuring and revising, can then be done in a more objective frame of mind once that initial outpouring is finished.  My own version of this is “write angry, edit slightly more collected.”

I don’t think I’m alone being driven by anger when I write; there’s certainly enough out there (*gestures broadly at everything*) to be angry about.  It can be frustrating at times, especially when writing comedy or some similar form, for an audience not to pick up on whatever has me outraged and realize that’s what was driving my creative impulse.  Most of the time, however, I take that sort of reaction – enjoyment of what I’ve created without necessarily realizing the outrage that was fueling its creation – as a good sign.  Whatever furious impulse sparked my creative juices was tempered by the actual process of writing, of research and planning and revising and procrastinating with online backgammon games.  And generally, I’m a slow and steady composer, so I have sufficient time for all that mental work and processing to take place.

Something’s changed lately, however.

The last two scripts I’ve completed have been ten-minute pieces.  In each case, the script was prompted, yes, by anger – not at some general cause or problem with the world at large, but with some tiny, petty, specific thing done by a particular person.  (Nobody you know, in all likelihood.) And these last two things, that anger wasn’t the low boil I’m accustomed to.  No, these last two times, my anger – again, at something profoundly trivial in each case – was so pronounced, so white hot a flame, that I turned on my laptop and pounded away at it for a few hours straight, ending up with a gleaming new draft which I have no real recollection of writing.

I have discovered Rage Plays.

Is this a good thing?  I am channeling my energies into something constructive, after all.  And while they’re new drafts and not ready to be shared yet, they seem pretty promising to me.  But there was something different about these.  Something far more violent in their conception than I’m accustomed to.  Has the general tenor of the times, the hair-trigger mindset we’re all living with these days, infected me in my most quiet and reflective moments, infused my keyboard itself?  Is there to be no respite from it at all?

Damn, that makes me angry.

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