Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: writing (Page 1 of 2)

Bits and Pieces

One of the really cool things I did from 30 March to 5 April, all while in lockdown, was an online memoir style writing course with my long time friend and brilliant writer Melinda Ferguson. It was pretty intense, and took us all to some real pain spots. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though; some of the stuff we wrote about was hilarious, if not seriously bleak and dark.

I now have a small body of work created in that time and I thought it might be fun to share some of it here. It’s not like it’s destined for anywhere else, and I love this blog space, even though it is weathered and a bit neglected.

I thought I would start with this fun exercise, where we wrote about lockdown diaries day 10, and then day 100.

Corona diaries Day 10

It is only because I am lying on the floor on my Pilates mat that I notice it. Corona Zoom Pilates has become a thing, and my mat, usually squeezed between my cupboard and the wall and used for emergencies (I don’t know what kind, I haven’t actually needed a Pilates mat in an emergency), is now always in the lounge.

Linus, my boy dog, dog of my heart, IBD sufferer, Hobbit hairy foot, stinky breath, spatchcock lying down boy, is lying near me, waiting to see what I am going to do next. That’s how it has been in the house since lockdown. The dogs don’t trust me anymore. Anyway, I am staring at Linus’s body and I see that he has a weird, scaly, flaky, lumpy growth on his elbow. It is huge, and gross. What the fuck has happened, and how did I not notice this before? Well, that part is easy. Linus’s fur hides a universe of weird things.

I jump up, banging my knee on the furniture I have moved so I can paint the skirting boards, and go and take a closer look. The Game of Thrones scale disease has found its way onto Linus’s elbow (do dogs have elbows?).

I am hysterical. I call the vet. It takes an age for someone to answer. “Look, look, I know this isn’t an emergency emergency, but Linus has a sci-fi growth, fungus, goitre thing going on! I need to bring him in!”

She tells me to take photos and WhatsApp George (I am deeply in love with George. Have been for two generations of dogs and three generations of cats).

I squeeze Linus between my knees and photograph the flaking abomination. I send the pictures to George and wait.

George the saviour, the calm and thorough, the dog whisperer, messages back. “Common in dogs who have spent the summer lying on cool cement floors. Put Bactroban on. For 4 days. Then once or twice a week.”

And then…

Corona Diaries day 100

Friday 3 July (this is fiction! I am changing names to protect the real people)

We meet secretly at the top of the road. It is freezing. Only 7am and still dark in the middle of Cape Town winter. The dogs, now completely used to never leaving the house, are silhouetted by the stoep light as they wait for me, ears pricked.

Fikkie from the corner house and I have gone into business, desperado style. I have two packets to bring him today, and he has a small wad of cash for me.

Marion appears on her stoep with her cup of coffee and gives us the stank eye. She is religious and doesn’t approve of our little arrangement. Also, she is the unofficial street compliance officer and Fikkie and I really don’t want her to call the police. Really.

I smile at Marion and wave. Fikkie follows suit. I turn my back to her, and hand Fikkie the Checkers packets stuffed with the leaves, ready to be oven dried, cleaned, shredded and rolled.

It was an accident, I swear. On day 10 of lockdown I had found some fruit and vegetable seeds and planted what I had thought was cabbage and coriander. Instead the healthiest tobacco plants had speed grown and flourished – I have had all the time in the world to care for them – and I had approached Fikkie, a Woodstock hanger abouter, on WhatsApp to ask if he could help me. He had jumped at the chance.

So now I grow the stuff in my back courtyard, and he processes it, home grown style. Luckily he has a stash of rizla paper, stockpiled in the early days of cigarette banning.

Now we sell Fikkie’s Entjies, five a pack, loosely bound with elastic bands, totally organic and without harmful chemicals, to the neighbourhood. We can’t keep up with the demand.

Today I’ll be able to order much needed dog food.

Bog

I don’t know how creatives do it; admin, applications, grants, submissions. I can sit at my computer for non stop hours writing, imagining, creating, but the minute I have to pull up my broeks and do admin of any kind, especially the furthering of my ‘career’ kind, I seize up, zone out and develop a paralysis that is only broken by procrastinating and eating.

In fact, writing this blogpost is pretty much me not doing the stuff that urgently, deadlinishly needs to be done. As I write this a deadline is slipping away and it is possible I will not get my application in on time.

Chances are I am going to spend as long as I can on this post, and edit it, and think about it much more than it deserves, and then I will look at the time and it will be Pilates time, shit, I had no idea, and I will dash out of here, and grab things at the last moment, and then I will rush back and have two meetings etc, and I will not do the admin. The bog.

In Her Shoes

I have just submitted my novel, my second attempt at writing a long thing, to a publisher.

This is the most intense combination of complicated feeling, even though it is not dissimilar to performing a one woman show.

Chapter 1 – There is a feeling when you decide to submit it, and then at least twenty push me pull you feelings arrive to make you question whether you are ready, whether the publishing house is the right one (they are the only ones actively asking for submissions at this time), whether you are delusional and have no talent, whether they have a newbie on the submissions desk, whether the time is right, whether you are too old, whether you are too funny/not funny, whether your work is derivative and if it is, who it derives from.

Chapter 2 – The overwhelm, when you have to make sure you have all the supporting documents they need, and you double check the manuscript and you count the chapters and see a mistake, and get caught up in some internal grammar dispute with yourself, and you suddenly question a character’s name, and you get self conscious that the work isn’t long enough, or that it isn’t original enough, and then you re-read a paragraph and you really like it, but the one next to it seems weak in comparison, and you want to go to an arbitrary page and check for consistency but you are too scared to leave where you are and forget what number you changed the mistake to.

Chapter 3 – You are reading a book, a brilliant book, about a writer in his 50s (like you) and his angst, and self doubt, and disbelief that he was any good, and his bleary neediness, and every brilliantly selected word feels like it is written for you, about you, and reminds you of what you are trying to do, only so much better. (The book is Less by Andrew Sean Greer) , and you watch stuff on TV, and it has your themes in it, from your one woman show you just did, and everything feels like it has been done before, only better.

Chapter 4 – The talking to. The pep talk. You give yourself the lecture, the mantra, the vision manifest, and the whole time you are remembering the criticism of the last thing you did – not all the brilliant things that were said, only the bad, and you get the paralysis.

Chapter 5 – You throw caution to the wind, and, like drunk WhatsApp, you press send before you can change your mind, and then you are deeply, irrationally embarrassed.

Chapter 6 – Five minutes later you are already in anxious waiting mode, even though they completely and repeatedly admitted that they would take at LEAST two months to get back to you.

Chapter 7 – in continuum. You write about your feelings, and publicly declare them on your blog, on the internet.

Reginald Dwyer

Here’s another product of my writing group. Many of the elements used to thread the story together were prompts. See if you can identify them.

Reginald threw the watch into the disappointingly calm sea. He imagined feeling something huge. Instead he watched as the thing sunk like a stone, and because the water was so unexcited, he saw it plonk on the sandy bottom and stay there, suddenly motionless. He turned and huffed his way along the beach, squinting at the sunset and glowering at the couples looped in each other’s arms and kissing, eyes closed. His twingy hip alerted him to the fact that the beach was sloped, and the fine sand was filling and emptying in his brogues as he walked. Suddenly, and without any warning to himself, he grabbed at his shoes, ripping them from his feet to reveal his beige and brown diamond socks. He hated them the minute he saw them and tore them from his feet too. Everything was thrown into the sea. The socks floating, the shoes sinking slowly.

His slight stutter and small frame had resulted in Reginald Dwyer having a completely sheltered upbringing. Fussed over by a social worker mother and completely ignored by his slightly abusive and competitive, muscular father, Reginald slid through school avoiding blows and spending afternoons in the school library. Mr Collins, the insane school PE teacher knew he was there, and preferred it that way. Reginald was left hand left eye dominant and useless at ball sports. That library clock; its gentle ticking and slow, mechanical second hand had been his first love.

And then he read the Sherlock Holmes novels. The stories kept him awake and intrigued. Moriarty was alluring and terrifying. Reginald fell into a fantasy world that had him fixing clocks, solving crimes and being the world’s greatest cat burglar. He stole and collected his mother’s hair pins and taught himself to pick locks. He listened to the ticks and clicks of safe mechanisms. He practiced saying “the dead never speak” in French and German accents. In case he was ever caught. The fantasy ended in him swallowing a fast-acting poison that he had concocted in his very own underground laboratory. He thought of the pill box that housed his first tooth as the perfect poison holder. He was a loner. Independent. Secretive.

Reginald waded up to his knees. His heart was stuck in his chest. How had this happened to him? He was always the picture of restraint, manners, old fashioned distance.

How had his emotions unravelled so tremendously? The icy water lapped plastic packets against his legs. He felt trapped. His chest constricted.

Mrs Cartwright had started coming to the watch repair shop with silly little requests. She had asked to sit next to him while he worked. Her heady sandalwood incense perfume made him queasy. Fix this link. Change that face. This little watch runs slow. That one runs too fast. And then she had started sending the SMSes. Always the same. Always in caps. “I love you”. It was horrific. She had leaned over. Touched him. He had taken the watch on a chain and strangled her. And run.

The sun had disappeared. Couples had gathered their blankets and bottles and were heading to the parking lot. And Reginald Dwyer walked into the gloomy water.

Like a Friendship

12108727_10153223922241008_7465013988944086042_nComing back here after a long absence is like picking up the phone to call a close friend after weeks of busy stuff has gotten in the way. I have missed being here, and I miss the particular headspace of writing my thoughts out and then sending them into the very public ethers.

I think what happens is that sometimes there is a natural flow between the kinds of writing I am doing and my blog, and sometimes there is a complete disconnect when I am engrossed in a particular writing project (like finishing my screenplay for example, yes, yes I finished a screenplay, and I am very excited). Mostly the writing on my blog reflects where I am in my other writing, and right now I am in a writing hiatus. I have three very strong ideas and only one committed to index cards. I am going to have to ramp it up a notch and start doing the words of it very, very soon.

So I distract myself with everything else that is not actual writing. Yes, there is other stuff, like directing the brand new (and very funny) Violet Online Rebooted (Love Me Tinder) which opens on 18 April, and working with some gorgeous AFDA honours students on a show.

I am in that interesting, illusive, in between world that is before committing and still dreaming and terribly frustrating, where brilliant ideas come to me while I am driving, or sleeping, or feeding the dogs, and they aren’t put down or remembered. Sometimes only the feeling of the idea remains, without anything to attach it to, and sometimes a character appears, fully formed, with absolutely nothing to do.

And I can do really, is wait. But I have decided to keep in practice here.

A few lovely little things on my mind

I always know it’s been a while since I’ve blogged when I have to re-enter my password. That’s this morning. I am not even sure I have one whole thing to write about; it’s bits and pieces. Let’s see.

I woke up remembering last night’s improv show. We had a lovely house (it’s school holidays) and clearly, not everyone went to Grahamstown. There is always that nervousness about running anything theatrical while the festival happens. Pah, I say. But as important as the lovely house was the lovely show. We performed our old favourite format, TheatreSports, and because of all the great scene work we have been doing, and all the other formats we have been working on, the standard and satisfaction of our work last night was really high. Everybody loved us, and we loved each other, and ourselves. This got me thinking again about how lucky we are to have sustained this thing for almost 22 years, proving that we are not only the oldest but also the best improv group in Cape Town. And we can still pull audiences! This makes me extremely happy.

Another thing that is making me extremely happy at the moment is that I seem to have (holding thumbs that I don’t jinx it) broken the creative drought with a spurt of energy for a few interesting possibilities, the latest of which is a secret, but it is a new theatrical collaboration with some of my most favourite people and it is going to be groundbreaking in a hilarious and charming way. Watch this space.

Then there is the weather. I know, we are needing winter rains, but. I walked on Camps Bay beach yesterday, with my friend and the dogs, for over an hour and it was outrageously gorgeous.

And, ladies and gentlemen, I am writing again, not only here, but all over, with a collection of new ideas and things that make me enthusiastic and energised. Who knows what will become with these things, if they are ever to become actual things, but I am enjoying the process.

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