Making it up as we go along

 

© Nicole Keane

© Nicole Keane

 

Theme: Yes, AND…

***

by Kat

GMGM has two new things: a gorgeous banner and a sanity salvaging schedule. We will now post once a week so that we (the authors) and you (our gracious audience) can better savor the fruits of our labor.

The thing is, writing (at least for our purposes) is the act of creating something from scratch for an audience – mainly the big three: moms, Facebook and one’s internal reviewer. You want to be compelling. You want people to read your work. You hope not to sound like an idiot. Stumbling blocks are often a welcome reprieve – taking over the imagination, becoming larger than the task at hand, and enticing writers to bend into pangs of procrastination and fully-fledged writer’s block. This often results in succumbing to days or weeks of Netflix only to finally face draft copy during a severe bout of deadline-fueled endorphins.

In an attempt to square off with these stumbling blocks, this round, we authors are going to use the improv principle of Yes, AND, which would normally occur onstage line by line with proper improv actors. As far-flung contributors, we don’t have the luxury of immediate feedback, so the rules are a bit different: Each author has to accept the basic premise of the previous posts (the character, the plot). Once they have done so, they also add something new. The idea here is to spark some collective creativity (forcing all of us to contribute to a shared narrative) and foster a community of supportive risk-taking. You know, team building, group hugs, blah blah blah.

In this instance, we also individually lack the luxury of planning ahead, simmering, festering and letting the procrastination take on a life of its own. In fact, due to a scheduling change, I’m writing this at almost the last possible second. See how easy it is? Type, type, clickity clack. Fuck you, writer’s block.

Since I’m kicking off this jamboree, I’ll paraphrase Ms. Andrews (à la The Sound of Music): Start here. Start now. Well done, you.

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Drucilla poured another cup of tea, wondering how she liked to drink it. Curiosity, stretched over the last few weeks, waned into tediousness. Cream? Sugar? With lemon? Often she was forced to perform several takes of the same task to determine her preferences. She drank coffee for an entire week, despite the heartburn, only to have a reprieve in decisiveness. Adding cream and hoping for the best, Drucilla sat next to the curtain, teacup precariously situated on her knee, her finger foraging the bottom of a jar of peanut butter. She definitely liked peanut butter.

A stagehand walked by briskly, throwing shade at doe-eyed Drucilla nestled in a corner. Two men with the shell of an elephant’s body came to a halt behind a woman with a clipboard and a child in full clown makeup. The backstage of an opera certainly wasn’t boring, although Drucilla had yet to discover her role in this performance. Nothing had been asked of her, but recognition was apparent in the eyes of those with whom she made contact. She’d passively accepted the idea that she was embedded in the theater company and would wait to determine the plausibility of further responsibility. Bravery was not her strong suit; given the accident, she favored caution.

She had always struggled with decision-making, but she didn’t know that about herself. Once the doctor diagnosed her amnesia, she’d ascribed this aspect of her personality to her illness. Unencumbered by memories, she gleefully tried out life, insatiably inquisitive about herself and optimistic about what lay before her, but tentative about the results. She tried all sorts of things – maybe for the first time; she really couldn’t be sure. For a few days she was convinced she spoke Italian, which turned out to be German. One day she engaged a cat in a staring contest, uncertain of its intentions. And, in one particularly unhappy moment, she grappled with a mouthful of Absinthe.

At present, however, she wished for all of the answers. Without a caretaker or a home, she had yet to meet anyone who could provide her with the information she needed.

Three baby wombats waddled by in a line. A costumed devil, linked by arm to a mezzo in full gala dress, exited one dressing room in exchange for another. Ropes moved swiftly as set modifications were put into place. A trombone took an inordinately long moment to settle on the right note. A stage mouse scurried by, as if on cue.

The woman with the clipboard, now agitated, whooshed by feverishly, only to realize she’d overshot her mark, turned abruptly and halted in front of Drucilla. “Drucilla?” she said as she paced.

“Yes?” Drucilla replied, certain her pulse had stopped.

“You’re needed.”

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