Pursued By A Bear is our new advice column with playwright Adam Taylor. He’ll tackle your playwriting questions – from practical issues to existential dilemmas – relying on nothing but his bare wits, brute strength, and questionable personal experiences.
“My laptop is dead, and I’m looking to start afresh – but there are so many hardware and software options out there: from Evernote to Final Draft and tablets to typewriters, what devices, applications and software should a savvy London playwright not be without?” – Sammy L.
Before Sophocles carved out Oedipus the King how many hours did he spend agonising over which brand of stone tablet would best suit his style? Before the great William Shakespeare jotted down the first draft of The Scottish Play how much time do you think he spent weighing up the pros and cons of the various quills on offer? How many trips do you think Arthur Miller took to PC World before bashing out The Crucible?
Of course, the answer to all of the above is probably none.
A true artist makes the most of the materials they have at hand. Yes, it would have been a lot easier and quicker for Michelangelo to carve David out of playdough or polystyrene but it wasn’t within his budget at the time so he had to make do with marble.
All the fancy formatting and editing shortcuts in existence won’t make a bad play into a good play. If it’s good, it will be equally good whether it was written in Evernote, Final Draft, Word, or carved into the skin of a potato with a blunt toothpick.
The latest laptop also won’t improve your writing. Granted, I’ve forgotten a lot of incredible ideas during the six hours it takes for my relic of a computer to load up Windows 98, but sadly I don’t have a fortune to spend on new hardware. So I find other ways.
Even if that means etching the words on the face of my beloved gran in indelible pen.
Or frantically screaming my ideas directly into the ear of someone with a better memory.
Or using a notepad.
And who needs the distractions of modern technology anyway? Once I turn on the computer I’m just as likely to spend hours on Youtube watching mind-numbingly pointless videos of cats falling off the sofa and grown men assaulting each others’ testicles with sports equipment as I am writing.
Maybe you don’t have that problem, maybe you’re a lot more disciplined and dedicated than I am.
I doubt it, because you’re wasting time reading the worthless advice of some whiny bastard whose column you just stumbled across on the internet while searching for something that would validate your excuses for not writing anything today.
I personally prefer to avoid technology wherever possible. How many times have you battled through hours of pain and desperation, cursing at the screen and launching inanimate objects through windows, only to finish that difficult sentence right before the computer crashes and loses everything?
This rarely happens with a notepad.
To be a writer, all you need to do is write.
If you want to write your next play on the latest i-thing with the “industry-standard” software that all of Hollywood is using, you’re free to do so. But ultimately it won’t make your play any better than if you scratched it on the walls of a prison cell using a shiv you fashioned out of a bent spoon.
If I was in your position I would cast that redundant laptop into the Thames and put off replacing it until I had completed at least one first draft on real paper.
Or the walls of my bedroom.
Or on the side of a motorway bridge.
Or on the shell of my neighbour’s tortoise.
I’m sure you get the point by now, it doesn’t matter what you use; just let the art out. You owe it to the world.
And by the way, please never refer to yourself as ‘A savvy London playwright’ again.
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