I've Been Colonized!

The Pre P.S.:

I made a couple videos for you on Monday, but then I forgot to tell you about them. Here they are:

- Question of the Week Intro

- Question of the Week #1 - Creative Habits

Dear Patronopolis,

When I was starting to write songs, I remember thinking quite a bit about what they were made of. Their DNA, their shape, their size, their mass. What kind of flow they had — their circulatory system. Their structure. Since most songs are less than 4 minutes long, their structure and the logic underneath are not that difficult to grasp, once you give those things your attention. And that’s when songwriting gets really fun.

Now I’m getting fascinated by the structure of stories. My current story - the story in Reserve & Green — but also just stories, in general. Any stories.

That’s one of the gifts of the Colony experience.

Another was a growing awareness of how I’m learning on at least two levels at once right now: I’m learning how to write a show (any show), and I’m learning how to write this show. I’m building my toolkit and using it at the exact same time. I like learning by doing. But it’s important to keep in mind that that’s what’s going on here, and adjust my expectations accordingly. Sometimes I’m reaching for a hammer when what I really need is a chisel, or a clamp, or a coffee break. I’m just to green to know, yet, when I’m making those kinds of mistakes. I’m my own apprentice, and I need to treat myself as I strive to treat the students who enroll in my singing groups — with belief in their potential, with humor, with a desire to attune myself to their needs. In short: it would behoove me to develop patience and kindness toward myself in this process. That’s an environment in which people can learn. That’s how real confidence has a chance to grow.

A third gift of Colony was finding camaraderie, peer-ship, in the Great Human Fear of Sucking. Playwrights I respect, and admire, and have a lot to learn from — they, too, are afraid of sucking. Everyone is, in anything they care about.

I found camaraderie on multiple levels, actually. I found myself remembering that I’d made my living as a freelance writer in Chicago for three years before I left the midwest. If you’d asked me in 1998 if I was a musician or a writer, I would have said, “a writer, but I do love to sing and play the guitar." In 2008 I would have said, “a musician, but I love to write." And now? Dare I say it?


Playwrights William Mastrosimone, Larke Shuldberg and Melissa Ross all helped me immensely by coming to my show, reading the script afterward, and spending a brunch, lunch and dinner thinking with me about it. They treated me like a peer, a writer among writers. They all had very different ideas and questions, but they all independently said some similar things, including:

  • "Don’t listen to anything I have to say unless you sense it might help you. Please feel free to ignore me." (Lesson: the people with the most wisdom have the least attachment to me accepting it as such.)

  • "Take breaks. Don’t drive the process too hard. Plays need to breathe and evolve." (Lesson: chill out, Amy.)

  • "This thing has real potential." (Lesson: don’t give up, Amy.)

In short, the Colony experience was amazing. I’m just now coming out of it. A huge thank you to the beautiful, generous, hard-working cast, the filled-to-capacity audience, director Greg Johnson, producers Salina Chatlain and Nichole Pellant, and to all of you, for your steadfast support in this complex, mysterious process.

Every time I expose my work, I have a huge rush of confusing feelings before, during and after, and this was no exception. Letting my projects be seen in their incompleteness, with all their messy complications, goes directly against my grain. Loose ends untied, skills I’m trying to learn but haven’t mastered yet fully on display — eesh! It’s a heart attack for me. Even thinking about it makes me squeamish. And that’s part of how I know I’m on the right track here. I’m making myself incredibly uncomfortable, which leaves me with two choices. Learn some new stuff, or wimp out and give up. And since giving up is just not an option….

…onward, dear Patronopolis!