Without deadlines, my dreams, hopes, every-day tasks, obligations and aspirations would just lie in a rotting lump on my kitchen floor, until I decided to mop them up. Which I never would.
When doing rewrites on my play, I didn’t really START until four days before I had a reading of it – when it would be very embarrassing to have NO play to read, or one that hadn’t changed for three months.
It seems to me that I should I always function as if on a deadline. The ultimate deadline, after all, is death, and as that could be dropped in my inbox at any moment, shouldn’t I always function as if I have a boss breathing down my neck, waiting for me to finish that novel, bake that pie, call that friend, go on that trip, sing that song, learn that one thing or the other, etc?
Sounds a little exhausting. And maybe not sustainable. But the point, my friends, is to light a fire, however small, under the ass of your motivation.
The point, really, is to be your own boss, to breathe down your own neck and make yourself reach the goals you strive for. Give yourself a day off, sure, but when you’re at work, you better be at work.
I’ve written some of the best things of mine under a deadline, in the two hour crunch time before class, in the late night before the reading, in the few minutes at lunch break. Not everything is great. But once in a while I do get rewarded for laziness.
Here is an example of a deadline written monologue – a new addition to the play I’m producing. I have no idea why I write about food so damn much. And I just realized that the tense is sorta screwed up – and that’s what you get for doing it at the last minute.
JAYE: There was once a woman named Jenny. She lived on the tenth floor of the building I grew up in. And she had a husband named Harry – you don’t meet a lot of Harrys these days. And Harry was obsessed – and I mean obsessed – with Jello. Not only did he eat it every day, but Jello molds were his thing. If there was a holiday or special occasion or even if it were just a particularly sunny afternoon, Harry would make a Jello mold. Brains and bats for Halloween, snowflakes and wreaths during the winter, bunnies and flowers for spring, storks, hearts, bumble bees, whatever – Harry would make it. Sometimes, he’d put fruit or nuts or little candies in the Jello too – so the molds looked like mini-universes in suspended animation. Now one day, Harry got hit by a bus. A completely un-heroic thing – he simply wasn’t paying attention. He’s fine – he’s alive – but he lost the use of his legs in the process, and was restricted to a wheelchair. Harry – usually a rather jolly guy – fell into a depression. And we stopped seeing the Jello molds..and really, we didn’t see much of Harry either. Now Jenny starts to lose her patience with this. There’s enough to get used to already – the attitude change is not working well for her. So one day, Jenny makes a Jello mold herself. A bright red dove holding a little sprig of mint in its mouth. And Jenny goes up on the roof and watches the front door, knowing Harry will be wheeling outside soon, on his way to physical therapy. As soon as she spots the slightly balding top of his head, she dumps that Jello right off the roof and it careens down in pieces, splattering on his head, his lap and the sidewalk around him. And then there’s that moment – when everything holds its breath, when you’re not quite sure you saw what you think you just saw. And Harry looks up to see his wife looking down at him, an empty tray in her hand – and he starts laughing. He laughs for a good fifteen minutes straight. And he never stopped smiling after that. I guess he could always feel the Jello slinking down his neck. Cold. And jiggling.
On the “99” front: I’ve done about four days of auditions and am close to casting. It’s been a little crazy to start imagining these characters embodied in real-live actors. But I suppose just holding up people’s head shots and speaking the lines in weird cartoonish voices from behind the paper wouldn’t work.
Or maybe it would.