A WRITER'S WORLD
A Writer's World
by Molly Moynahan
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is lettinggo.” — Herman Hesse.
Nearly twenty years ago I dated an unhappy man whose sadness came from the loss of his mother as a child and other painful memories he carried. I ended up writing a film with a protagonist based on him and a theme that echoed Kate Chopin’s exquisite novel, The Awakening. In brief, the idea of a woman leaving her family to survive was transferred into contemporary New York and the main character was a shrink.
The movie was submitted to a number of competitions and was kindly rejected, once winning something, possibly third prize. We split up; I married and had a baby, moved to London and packed up the script to be shipped to the next destination. We briefly met again in Dallas where I was living, not very happily, but loving being a mother and in love with my then husband.
He came to see me and smoked a huge amount of cigarettes and talked about himself and his broken heart and ignored my phenomenally gifted baby. I decided to put the movie away. There was one other part that was hard to sacrifice. Throughout the play, the main character refers to The Streets of Laredo, a song my mother sang to me as a child. The title of the play, “Clay,” came from that song when the dying young cowboy is referred to as “cold as the clay.”
Fast-forward a decade and a half. I have divorced and remarried, published a successful novel and am at a Christmas Party discussing drama with my next-door neighbor who is a producer of plays. He has read my novel and liked it and asks if I’ve ever written a play. I tell him about “Clay” and how I’ve often imagined it as a theatrical production. There are some flashbacks and special effects but they are minimal and possibly can be cut. He introduces me to a director he often collaborates with and they both read my script. They decide it is worth adapting from a film to a play and I get to work.
Several months pass and I send them the play. We meet, discuss what would be possible in terms of the number of characters, using video, and the difference between a play and a film. I cut several characters, eliminate certain scenes and we decide to have a staged reading. The reading is cast with excellent actors except for the main character who is completely wrong for the role. However, I have a good audience, the actor’s make the words come to life and the feedback is very positive. I am moved and excited during the reading. What is more magical then collaboration, I ask myself.
We meet and discuss what worked and didn’t work in the production. I concur with their observations and agree to a rewrite. At this point I have rewritten the original script possibly ten times. I am excited about the idea of a play but am losing interest in this particular story. However, I am someone who finds it hard to let go. I rewrite the entire thing and send it to the director and producer.
Months pass. They are busy, I am busy and then the producer contacts me to ask permission to show this version to a respected fellow producer/director. I give my permission aware I’m not holding my breath. The connection I have with this work and these characters is wearing thin. It’s not because of the criticism. It is a result of an arc, an arc of creation that sometimes results in completion but not necessarily triumph.
We meet for coffee and they share their notes. The woman likes many things but does not understand what the main character wants. My producer and director look at me as if I am going to blow up or cry. But I don’t. I nod and say, “That makes sense.” When they ask me what I want to do I say, “Let it go. Write another play.” They look surprised but I am aware of the fact that I feel fine, possibly a little sad but not desperate. In fact, I already have a new idea for a play.
This experience reminds me that I am constantly in process as a writer, constantly challenged by failure as well as success and constantly in need of accepting that some things will never see the light of day and that is exactly how it should be.