My Dad is a playwright--he's been writing shows for his non-profit, the Castro Valley Dramatic Arts Academy, for about 15 years now. When I talked to him about my writer's block, he suggested thinking outside the box. So I did.
I called up my best friend and we grabbed every hat we could find, my camera, a tripod, and what I had of the script thus far. We set up the camera in the garage and filmed everything that I had in the script, using nothing but hats and angles to distinguish between all 13 characters. We had a blast! Not only was I getting valuable feedback on my script, my passion for the project was renewed. I edited the video together and played it for my family, asking for feedback on the clarity of the story and characters.
Later that summer I moved to Ashland, Oregon with my partner in crime, Jordan Mackey. Filming became more difficult to do as most of our time was spent looking for work, so I went back to writing whenever I could. I got a job at a retail store in town which was right next door to a Starbucks. I made writing my treat to myself at the end of my work day--I'd leave work, head to Starbucks, get a chamomile tea and muffin, and sit down with my laptop. It became such a regular event that I started to know the baristas, and they knew me as the girl-who-is-writing-a-play-and-can-never-decide-what-drink-to-get. I will never be able to thank those girls enough for their patience with me while I tried to decide between saving money and getting the actual drink that I wanted.
By December my schedule was becoming increasingly busy and I was finding it more difficult to make time to write. My best friend had been encouraging and supporting me every step of the way, but as time stretched on and on and the script wasn't getting any closer to a complete first draft, she put her foot down. "By the end of February, you need to have a first draft," she told me. "Okay" I laughed, but something in me resolved that by February 28th, 2014, I would click send on an email to her that contained the first version of that script.
And so followed more Starbucks-sessions, mornings with my tea, my laptop, and my grandmother's well-loved copy of "Pride and Prejudice." Held together with duct tape and a rubber band, I had to be extremely careful as I searched through those faded pages for the dialogue I needed. December finished with a trip back home for Christmas. January and February flew by until I found myself, on February 28th, at Starbucks, with the store about to close, pressing send on an email addressed to my best friend, with an attachment that read "Pride&Prejudice_adaptation_FirstDraft."
As I walked home that night, my feet buoyant against the pavement, I realized that this was not my first attempt at an adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice." I had completely forgotten that about 8 years ago I had attempted to write an adaptation of it for film. When I got home and looked through my journals, there it was, my military adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, with Darcy a General and Elizabeth a Sergeant, divided by their rank. I had stopped writing when I realized I knew nothing about the military, let alone screenwriting. I had started it just months after having fallen in love with Jane Austen for the first time at that New Years Eve party, age 14.
It seemed Austen was going to be in my life, whether I knew what I was doing or not.
This is Elizabeth Bennet's first line in "Pride & Prejudice, an adaptation", and it was written in a moment of total frustration with the writing process. I had been working on the adaptation for a couple of months and was about 20 pages in when I realized I had no idea what I was doing, or where the piece was going. Sure, the story was pretty much laid out for me, but I wasn't a writer. What did I know about adapting novels for the stage, or any sort of playwriting, for that matter? The thrill of starting a new project was gone, and now all that was left was the work: sitting down at my desk day after day and clunking out pages. It seemed a bleak and tortuous future.
"Beginnings are always easy for me. I see an image and BAM, it starts. But middles...How we get there....Not so much" I typed ferociously into my laptop. I stared at the blinking cursor, my fingers hovering over the keyboard, all those stupid, blank pages taunting me. I closed my laptop and was done for the day...
Caitlin Lushington is the Co-Artistic Director of the Enso Theatre Ensemble, a teacher, director, and actress. Sometimes she works too hard, sometimes she forgets things, and she strives to put the car keys back in the same place every time. She drinks tea every morning from her TARDIS mug and "Mr. Tea" diffuser. She loves the morning and wishes she had a photographic memory, so she could remember the names of every person she meets.