By Kerry Fair
Stella is seated at a table in her home office typing on the keyboard of her computer. She then waves a dismissive hand at the screen as if she doesn’t like what she’s written.
(standing up and stretching) To keep writing or not to keep writing – that is the question … sorry Shakespeare.
Stella picks up a notebook and pen and sits on her desk facing the audience.
(sighing) Yes, I’m a writer. Well … hang on a bit, let me take that back. I’m not really a writer … I just write.
You see, if I told you I’m a writer you’d want to know what I’ve had published. When I say nothing, your eyes would instantly glaze over as you tried to find something vaguely supportive to say.
Believe me, there’s nothing more ego-deflating than the look on someone’s face when they’ve decided you’re a wannabe writer that’s never going to get past the wanting stage.
And having determined my status – no doubt accurately – you then stiffen in anticipation. You’re worried that I might ask if you’d like to read my latest work. Worse still, you dread the possibility that I’ll ask you to (making air quotations) “please tell me what you honestly think.”
(chuckling) Don’t panic. I won’t be offering you any of my writing. I understand that fear.
A woman, I’d spoken to very briefly at a writers workshop, turned up on my doorstep the next morning. While pushing an absolutely humungous folder into my arms, she announced that she thought I’d like to read her novel. Said she’d love to hear what I thought of it.
I read the first page … didn’t get any further … couldn’t stomach another sentence. A few days later, I heaved the folder into my car and returned it, hoping my lies were convincing as to why I couldn’t read it. Guess I’m not a good actor … she hasn’t talked to me since.
You actually need special qualities to be a member of the wannabe fraternity. You’ve got to be a dreamer, an optimist, a realist and a pessimist. But the number-one quality – the one thing that makes us wannabes really stand out from the non-writing crowd – is that we are masochists … god love us! … we just keep writing, no matter how bad we think our writing is.
When people tell me they’ve always wanted to write a novel, I don’t even ask them why they haven’t. I know why. Despite what they tell me about being too busy, or just trying to decide what to write about … et cetera, et cetera, I know the real reason. They lack the art of self-flagellation. They haven’t got what it takes to sit down and put one word in front of another … and another … and another, at the same time wondering why the hell they’re doing it.
And trust me on this … anyone who tells you they’ve always wanted to write, isn’t going to be interested in what you’re working on. You see, they know – deep down – they’re never going to write that novel, or play so they don’t want to hear from someone who’s actually doing it.
But that’s okay. I understand.
(pausing & sighing) I’d love to be a writer, a real writer … you know … my piggy bank oinking with delight as the royalties keep rolling in … (sighing wistfully) … hmmm …
Yes … I know what you’re going to say. I could just write for the enjoyment and mental stimulation … blah, blah, blah.
And yes, I’ve read Big Magic, you know … Elizabeth Gilbert’s rapture on the total joy of creativity … the delight of writing for oneself and not caring if you ever get published.
(sarcastically) R-i-g-h-t !
If I’d sold a gazillion copies like Elizabeth Gilbert did with Eat, Pray and Love, I’d be very, very happy to write about the joy of unrecognised creativity.
(chuckling) I could write a different best-seller … (making air quotations) “How to be an unsuccessful writer while you continue to delude yourself that one day, you’ll make it.”
Speaking of best sellers, have you noticed how many books are described on the covers as international best-sellers as they come off the press … I mean … before anyone has actually bought a copy and read it.
(chuckling) Maybe I should change the title of my current work. I could call it ‘Best Selling’. Then, when asked what I do, I could reply quietly, looking down modestly, … ‘well, actually, I’m a best-selling writer.’
(shaking her head at what she’s just said) Sorry … I shouldn’t have had that last coffee.
Anyway , where was I? … ah yes … to keeping writing or not to keep writing.
The thing is, I mainly write plays. (chuckling) Crazy, I know.
Of course, as you now understand, I never call myself a playwright. We all know that would be asking for trouble.
(sighing) I really don’t know why I keep doing it to myself. I mean, if I painted pictures, I could hang my creations around the house, maybe even give them as presents. Or if I made pottery I could at least eat off my handmade plates.
But I can’t hang my plays, I can’t eat off them and, let’s face it, you’re not going to be real excited if I gave you a printout of my latest script for your birthday … even if I do wrap it nicely.
Plays aren’t meant to be read and put on a bookshelf. If my plays don’t get performed by someone … somewhere … there doesn’t seem to be any point in even keeping them … who wants a reminder of all those hours of wasted words.
So Elizabeth Gilbert, sorry, but I don’t write plays for the sheer magic of creativity … bugger that for a joke.
I write plays because I want to see them presented on stage. I want to see how a director imagines the story, how actors interpret my words, how the set designer creates the time and place.
I want to sit with you in the audience and observe how you react to my creation. I want to see if you laugh where I hoped you’d laugh, if you smile in recognition of a similar experience.
Through my stories, I want all of us, including me, to remember that we all want the same things in life, and we all have to learn how to cope when we don’t get them.
I want to be the starting point of an art form that has been part of life through the ages; people performing stories in front of other people. So simple … so complex … so important.
So dear Elizabeth, the joy for me is not in creating the play, it’s seeing it come to life … that’s the Big Magic … that’s the carrot dangling over the corner of my laptop.
And yes, I will keep writing. I haven’t any choice. Writing is like a twin sibling. We often bicker and call each other names, but we share our deepest thoughts and we’d be lost without each other.
I cannot go anywhere without a notebook and pen. They’re my ticket out of the everyday life. I can time-travel to any place, at any time, and invent the people to inhabit it. And each time I leap out of the rabbit hole of routine and start writing, there’s always that carrot; the possibility that on one of my imaginary escapes I might arrive somewhere very interesting … a place you’ll want to visit as well.
(Stella stands smiling, getting ready to exit) You never know. One day you might be sitting in the very same seat in this theatre, watching something I’ve created.
— THE END —
Kerry Fair’s monologue, The Carrot, was among thirteen monologues performed at the Voices of Women in Petersham. This ‘monologue adventure’ was organised by Lliane Clarke and supported by The NSW Writers Centre, Studio Artes, and Studio MV.