Today, I officially complete my play. I titled it Peter for a multitude of reasons that I felt the need to state for the record as a “Writer’s Note on the Title” at the last page.
At our Marathon Read (from 10am-10.30pm) last Saturday, RN line-read as LUCAS. That was an honour. When Ben asked me how I felt about my play coming alive, I told him it was both empowering and humbling – to realise that I have actually Created a full artwork, to know how flawed it is and yet also to wonder at how it all happened and came together.
All our plays have levelled up. I like to think mine stood out thematically and maybe even stylistically. But I harbour no illusions. Many of my classmates’ plays are richer in various ways – the rhythm and pacing of the plot, the smoothness of dialogue, the believability of characters. I mention this not to compare, but to flaunt my knowledge of just how inchoate my work is. I wish I could say that Peter was everything that I envisioned it to be. But it was not. While I cannot deny the sense of achievement at completing a full-length work, regardless of its imperfections, the fact that I aimed so high makes this whole experience rather bittersweet.
N was right. I had invested heavily in Peter, and I wanted, and expected more out of it. But I have no regrets. Nor do I fear exhaustion. Like I told her, I don’t believe in being selfish or conservative about making art. I will give whatever the artwork needs, and trust that inspiration will come again.
And I did – give myself, or at least much of the darkness within me. The Faustly utilitarian notion of trading my soul for art was egoistically appealing. If my own character was flawed, at least I could then write flawed characters. After all, it is only in the fictional world that the flawed is beautiful. In the real world, it is the beautiful that is flawed.
But I dared to do it only because I thought I could separate myself from my work. Or at least, to blend the parts of myself that I put into my work into an indiscernible cocktail, for my audience to appreciate but not to identify.
So N’s offhand comment that she knew where each part of the story came from did two things. First, it made me feel extremely vulnerable. Because if knowing me could shed light on what I wrote, then the reverse was certainly true – that what I wrote could shed light on me. And I am not sure if I am ready to be identified with my characters, regardless of how much of myself I put into them.
Second, it made the darkness real for me. The fact that someone else could concretely connect my life to my play dispelled the illusion that what I wrote was only fiction. It was both less and more. It was truly me.
That being said, I’m a little disturbed by how I don’t know my characters. I feel like I know ANDREW less well than I know Neverwhere‘s Bod, for example. I don’t have ANDREW’s contours in my mind. I don’t feel his character. I don’t love him like the way I love Morpheus or Ender or Garion. And yet, he is supposed to be mine. That’s a life lesson right there.