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Philip Larkin

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Shelving Old Plays

Posted: 12/11/11 00:00

Seeing as this is my inaugural post, I reckon I should address something important: No, I'm not THAT Philip Larkin; they fuck you up, your Mum and Dad (mine certainly did by "accidentally" giving me this name.) I am not a poet - well, not beyond winning poetry competitions at school. I write theatre, television and film. If you're looking for the dead poet laureate, I'm sorry to disappoint you. You're free to leave, if you wish; but you may enjoy my rants and stories about giddy librarians, amongst the many other things I rant about. So, aye. Hello.

As a writer (NB: not poetry - okay, settled), I find there are a number of things that you should try and avoid as much as possible. One of those is actually referring to yourself as a writer; but I'll go into more detail about that in a later post. What I'm talking about at present is revisiting one's completed works. In the past few months I've found myself looking over old work - work that has been finished and plays that have been written, bound and bloody performed. Let me assure you; these have been a very unproductive few months.

What happens (to me, anyway) is that I dig myself into a trench. I sit down and begin to read over my work at my leisure, but soon I'm obsessed; questioning choices, changing my mind and I am unstoppable. You see, it's very important to learn when the time has come to shelf your work. This doesn't solely apply to writing; it's true of many art forms. Returning to a finished product only entices me to go back on what I've written, whether good or bad. For some stupid reason, I end up battling it out with my younger, spottier past self (and I tend to win, unfortunately).

Around two years ago, I met a radio producer who was interested in adapting an old play of mine to suit a radio production for BBC Scotland. I'd already pitched it to him and all he needed was a copy of the script to start moving forward. As of yet, I still haven't forwarded the script. For this, I'm an idiot (apologies Mr David Neville).

The script in question was a play entitled 'Æ', and was written over five years ago. Every time I look at the damn thing, I start re-writing it. Tending to be very critical of my own work, I can't just read - I have to edit and I end up tweaking almost every element of the play - from the characters to the story itself. I'm a nightmare.

You know what though? I'm making a resolution. I've decided that if I ever pick up an old script, I'm going to read it as an outsider. Yes, that's what I'll do; I'll try and alienate myself from the idea that I ever wrote that piece of utter shite in the first place.

Unless of course, it's good. If it's good, give me the fucking credit.

 

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