Lost in Self-Reflection

My thesis is moving forward again, so here’s a short update on what’s going on.

So much reading to do, so many ideas to come up with.

So much reading to do, so many ideas to come up with.

Answering the obvious.

I had an appointment with my thesis supervisor to talk about my ideas. It was really helpful to go through my thoughts. The supervisor suggested theoretical reading and really encouraged me in my process. She did point out that I haven’t taken on the easiest of tasks. Because I want to study the process of devising a play, I need to adopt almost an anthropological data collection method. This type of theatre research is new to my university, because it is so linked to my interests, and therefore most of my possible obstacles will be new to my supervisor as well.

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A Director’s Wish to a Playwright

I love writing plays. I think my strengths in writing are the visual aspect and dialogue – maybe because I love theatre so much. I often hear my characters talking in my head and simply write down what they say.

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I’ve also directed and acted in several plays, and there is one thing I wish I could tell playwrights.

Do not direct the play on page. 

The written play is used to interpret the story on stage. In prose, the writer has almost complete control over what ends up in the final story. In that sense, playwrights are different, because their story can look drastically different every time it’s performed. Sure, readers will interpret prose as well, but seeing a play on stage is much more concrete.

The images in a writer’s head are strong, I know that. The urge to paint as accurate a picture as possible can become overwhelming. But here’s the thing: A play can be written vividly, but the writer shouldn’t direct it.

Here’s what a play will look like to a writer:

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Work Methods: Your Way Is All Right

I love studying, and I often like to find out how others approach the same questions I’m faced with. The problem is, after I’d read a million texts on why planning your fiction writing was crucially important, I started believing it. I truly believed it was the only way to properly write a serious work of fiction. And things never worked out.

Luckily, I was wrong.

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Last winter, a creative writing teacher said something that made my writing change. It really wasn’t anything complicated, but I really needed someone to tell me:

Recognise your work methods, because everyone is different. Find what works and use that. 

Basically, as long as you’re writing, there are no wrong or right ways to get that text out of your head. I don’t know why I didn’t realise that myself, but I’m glad the realisation didn’t take any longer.

Example: Two Different Types of Work Methods

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Poetry Project 365: What I’ve Learned So Far

I really can’t make up my mind when it comes to writing. I want to write anything and everything I ever get excited about. Plays are cool. Novels are cool. Short stories are cool. Academic writing is cool. Research is cool. Poems are cool.

So on the 1st of January 2014, I started Poetry Project 365. The idea is to write a poem every day. Now that I’m more than halfway through, what have I learned?

My project notebook. instagram.com/ainotuulia

My project notebook. instagram.com/ainotuulia

Committing always works. 

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The Pros and Cons of Collaborative Writing

I’ve recently taken part in several projects of collaborative writing. This method of writing is commonly used in theatre, and all of my experience comes from writing drama as well. However, I think similar experiences will occur in all forms of collaborative writing, whether it be drama, prose or even non-fiction.

Me and my friends at work on our most recent collaborative writing project. instagram.com/vaasanylioppilasteatteri

Me and my friends at work on our most recent collaborative writing project. instagram.com/vaasanylioppilasteatteri

THE PROS

Everyone can use their strengths.

The most beneficial side to writing in a group is that everyone is different. One is very skilled at writing believable dialogue, one can move the plot forward with ease, one is good at inventing new metaphors, etc. Each participant has their strengths that they bring to the table, and putting it all together will result in a work that carries all of these elements.

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Getting Started

Autumn is here!

Okay, it's not that autumnal yet.

Okay, it’s not that autumnal yet.

Classes have started, and so has my M.A. thesis writing. I thought I’d document my thoughts on the process for a couple of reasons.

  1. If I commit in writing, I have to do it.
  2. I need to let out some steam every now and again.
  3. Writing down my ideas is a great way to brainstorm.
  4. Any feedback and comments from you guys will be tremendous help.

So here I go!

I wanted my thesis to reflect my career choices, so I knew from early on that I should write about theatre. Before the first thesis group meeting, I already had some basic building blocks written down.

  • Theatre
  • Devising
  • Queer theory
  • Rehearsal process
  • Popular culture items
  • Heteronormativity

They seem a little scattered, and believe me – that’s how I saw them as well. But that’s what I had to work with. In my B.A. thesis, I analysed Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as a text, so this time I knew I wanted something more practical.

On the first meeting of our thesis group, our supervisor had us make a timeline to visualise the progress we would like to make. We all wrote down when we want to be ready with our research plans, and initial and interim reports. Finally, we wrote down when the thesis will be done. My timeline (now I have to stick to it!) looks a little like this:

The first few months of my plan.

The first few months of my plan.

September. Have research problem/question clarified. Get the cast together.

October. Present research plan. Gather material with cast. Get theory.

November. A lot of writing. Gather material with cast. Get theory.

December. Initial report.

January. Writing. Play rehearsals almost complete.

February. Performances of the play. Writing.

March. Writing.

April. Interim report at the latest.

May. Thesis ready.

Afterwards we, together with the supervisor, signed our own plans in order to commit. I now have said plan on my wall to keep my goals in mind all the time.

When I got home, I dug straight into internet databases to start assembling theory. My progress is quite dependent on getting the right research problem, because that’s what I need to work with together with my cast. I read and read and read, but nothing got me to that magical light bulb moment.

Until dinnertime yesterday.

I sat down with my sister to have dinner, and we started talking about my thesis. After a while of talking, I blurted something out and my sister said: “But that’s good. That sounded good to me.” I quickly got a pen and wrote down my words on a napkin. And there I had it. My research problem! Finally something to work with!

I have to save this napkin.

‘Conqueering’ the stage. The transformation of heteronormative popular culture items in play devising. On a napkin.

Finally, here’s a list of all the things I’ve done for my thesis. When I’m stressed, I have a tendency to think I’ve done absolutely nothing, so maybe mapping out my progress can help me manage that stress.

WHAT I’VE DONE SO FAR:

  • Started reading theory.
  • Gathered a lot more reading to do.
  • Come up with a research problem.
  • Invented a working title I’m happy with.
  • Sent a message to actors about my project.
  • Set a deadline for having a cast together.

I’m actually quite excited about all this!

Love,
Aino.