This piece was originally published by ABC Open 10th January 2012.
ABC Open was archived in 2019.
I have an amazing life. This thought has struck me often over the years.
But no more so than as I was sitting on the steps of the idyllic Riversdale property in regional NSW spinning yarns with seventeen other emerging playwrights invited to attend Australian Theatre for Young People’s (ATYP) Fresh Ink National Studio Program.
Fresh Ink is one of ATYP’s babies, a program to identify, nurture and spotlight the next generation of Australian Writers. National Studio brought eighteen emerging writers all aged 26 or under (including lil ol’ me) together for a week of Masterclasses, group mentoring, one-on- one mentoring and dreaming time to craft eighteen 7-minute monologues.
The premise of the week is thus:
18 emerging writers brought together with 3 experienced writers as mentors and guides to support the newbies to craft a monologue appropriate for performance by a 17 year old using the theme of Death and Dying. 8 of the monologues to be chosen by ATYP for performance in February 2012 and to be published by Currency Press to boot!
So I started the week with the 3 hour drive to Adelaide, followed by a 6am flight to Sydney and an exciting car ride to ATYP’s home in Sydney where I was greeted by an array of colorful and exotic birds. My fellow writers and companions for the week. I’m exhausted already.
After the brief, expected introductions:
Where are you from? What do you do? Oh, I love that dress. Do you know such and such?
We pile onto an overly large coach for an almost 3 hour trek to Bundanon (near Nowra for those who know NSW) and the beautiful Riversdale property, our sanctuary for the week. Like most Australians I’m quick to doubt myself and undersell my skills. A few hours into our week long stay the doubts start to creep in…..
Perhaps there was another Alysha and they’d sent the invitation to me by mistake?
Perhaps they’d been a shortage of applications and they’d had to fill numbers?
Perhaps this was all a dream and I’d wake up at home with a headache and a stiff neck?
And so the sneaky nasty little thoughts started to cripple what I was writing….
We’re aiming for a reading of our works on Thursday and Friday.
Wednesday evening I have 43 documents open on my laptop. All of them covered with words I hate. I hate everything I’ve written since Monday. I’m not good enough. All these amazing and talented people. Nothing I write can possibly compete. Mine would never be chosen anyway. I’ve already decided. And so everything I write I hate. Because I’ve already judged it and discarded it before I’ve let the words hit the page.
Thursday morning. My monologue will be the first to be read tonight. I’ve got nothing. I meet with Peta Murray, my mentor, after lunch. She pins me with a steely gaze. Looks straight through all my bull shit and says “If I told you that what ever you write would win and would be beautiful and no one would judge it, what story would you tell? Go and write that story and then come back and talk to me”.
I go back to my room. Kneel by the bed with my laptop balanced precariously on the lumpy mattress.
I type. I type. I type.
My knees ache. I realize my face is wet. From tears. As it all comes gushing out of me. The pent up fear. The story I’ve stolen from myself.
Thursday night. One of my fellow actors reads my work so I can hear it. It’s not finished. I fidget. Uncomfortable. Hear all the jarring notes of a rushed piece of music. I look away from all the listening faces. Hide inside myself.
Friday. I type. I type. I type.
Saturday. We send our drafts to ATYP. To be chosen. To be discovered.
Wait anxiously. A week. A day over a week.
Now this. One new email. ATYP.
My monologue, titled ‘Ben Thomas, I love you’ has been chosen as part of Australian Theatre for Young People’s Showcase ‘The One Sure Thing’ opening Friday 3rd of February 2012 in Sydney to coincide with the publication of the monologues from ‘The One Sure Thing’ and last year’s showcase ‘Tell It Like It Isn’t’.
It’s ok to be afraid. It’s even ok to let the fear cripple you sometimes. But don’t stay there. Tell the story only you can tell, or no one else will.