To help inspire, encourage and reassure you, we’ve asked some fantastic playwrights to share their thoughts on writing.
First up is REBECCA LENKIEWICZ who won a BAFTA in 2015 year for co-writing Ida, which also won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Her plays The Night Season and Her Naked Skin both premiered at the National Theatre, where the latter was the first original play by a female writer to be premiered on the larger Olivier stage. Other plays include Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern, The Invisible and The Painter. She won a Fringe First for her play Soho: A Tale of Table Dancers.
When do you write?
I often think I should enforce a routine, but it’s never happened. I can write in the mornings but tend to have sorted other stuff and settle in to write in the afternoons. I used to love writing at night time but that’s faded a bit. I don’t manage to write every day.
Do you remember the first time someone described you as “a writer”
I can’t remember the first specific time but I’m sure it would have made me feel both elated and embarrassed. I felt very shy about the description for a few years; when I was first paid to write that was a wonderful shock and I felt I could start to contemplate calling myself a writer. An irritating cow at the National came up to me decades ago before a readthrough of my first play there, and I was very nervous and she stroked me like a cat and said “Hello Mrs. Writer” which really annoyed me – she’d always known me as an actress before that. In the bar I could have shrugged it off, but in front of a whole table of people I felt rage. I didn’t show it. I just sat there with a fixed expression.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find a lot of inspiration in true stories. I always think I should keep a notebook of ideas and never do. Just hearing people talk snippets of something I can enjoy and I think I’ll do something with that although I rarely do. People’s acts of bravery I find inspiring.
Do you ever abandon a writing project?
I suppose I have abandoned plays that are seemingly finished but could do with another draft and I haven’t felt the volition to improve them. I’ve not hugely abandoned projects midway through. I might write a scene and think it might be the start of a new play and then abandon it as I can’t bear to reread it.
But if I know I’m on a project I will try to see it through to the end unless it’s a disaster. I took my name off a film once as I’d written the script and then the director mostly improvised the whole piece. But it was far more his film than mine, his idea, his own story, so I didn’t feel like I’d abandoned it, just jumped off ship to almost everyone’s delight.
How do you organise your writing time?
I don’t. I just try to hit deadlines and dodge bullets and hope that I can stay out of trouble at the saloon bar. It often feels like the last scene of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid except I’m at my kitchen table in Leyton.
Where is your favourite place to write?
My kitchen table is a good height. I like writing in bed sometimes. I rent a portacabin from Rift theatre company in Tottenham, it has far less distractions than at home, and vibrant and lovely people working around the place who are part of Rift. Cafes can be good; trains if my brain says yes.
Do you procrastinate, and how do you combat it?