Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Slanislavski and Me - Elen Caldecott

Many moons ago, way back before email and wikipedia, I did Drama A-Level. I went to the library and hand-wrote essays about Brecht and Stanislavski.

I remember very little about this time (too much cider and Bjork to recall it all properly), but one thing I do remember is Stanislavski's acting method, which would later evolve, by a cunning word-switch, into method acting.

I had reason to think of this last week. Some of you may know that I have recently moved into my first owned-by-me-and-the-bank home (rather than owned by my-landlord-and-the-bank). It has been incredibly stressful (well, duh). There have been moments where my partner and I have wanted to bury ourselves under duvets and only come out once the nasty damp has gone away. I realise this isn't an effective approach to home maintenance, but at times it has been the best we've had.

Anyway, under such circumstances, it has been difficult to find the joy in writing. It has all felt very leaden, lifeless, heavy, murky, like a bad souffle, where you've forgotten the eggs.

Back to Stanislavski.

I had been working on a particularly dreadful scene. I gave up in disgust and went to my day-job. There, I found a member of staff, a pile of cardboard and no customers.

In no time, the member of staff had turned the pile of cardboard into some cute, teeny-tiny houses, as though Kevin McCloud had visited Toytown.

My skill with the scissors couldn't run to houses, but I felt brave enough to try a kennel to go with them. Once that was mastered, I found an online guide to making an origami dog to go in it.

Our little street joined some of the other paper-craft creations that 'decorate' (also known as 'clutter') our collective workspace.

Later, when I revisited the annoying, leaden scene, I found that I was approaching it with a new lightness of heart. It seems that the act of playing made my writing more playful.

I was reminded then of Stanislavski and his belief that good acting came from finding the real emotion, rather than simply declaiming lines. In other words, you just have to feel it.

I have resolved that whenever my writing is doing it's no-egg-souffle impression, I'm going to get out the origami, or the colouring, or the placticine and remind myself of how writing should feel. It should be like playing.

And at least it will take my mind off the damp.
I'd love to hear about other creative outlets help you with your writing!

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Twitter: @elencaldecott


JO said...

I so agree that writing should feel like playing - after all, we are allowing words out of the box and discovering what they get up to when we aren't always looking.

I'm lucky - I have grandchildren, so am never short of opportunity on the playing front.

Joan Lennon said...

Love your origami dog and cardboard kennel! For me, I think it's photography, but we definitely need SOMETHING non-wordy sometimes to break the grip of those non-rising souffles ...

Freya Morris said...

What a great idea! Stan's the man.

They are incredible cardboard houses. I love the idea of getting creating. I usually find taking the pressure off helps and going for a walk. My next venture is to make some of that book art (like this: http://mywordlyobsessions.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/anagram_octopus.jpg) I've got the book ready, but I'm afraid to begin.

I didn't know you worked at the Watershed. I go to this thing called the Steady Table there on a Tuesday night. (http://www.cypruswell.com/calendarFull.php?id=553&y=2012&m=04) Come along sometime!

Elen C said...

Ooh, Freya, the Steady Table looks interesting! Tuesdays are no good for me at present, but will keep an eye out in case circumstances change.

Penny Dolan said...

Wise post, Elen, especially as people try to capture back writing time after the hols. So easy to stop all the sense of playing and end up slouching along the road, trailing the too-heavy baggage of writing at your heels.

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