Category Archives: Pursued By A Bear

Pursued By A Bear: How to fix a boring protagonist

Pursued By A Bear is our weekly 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.    

“I’ve just realised that my protagonist is really boring , I’m worried that if even I think this, nobody else will want to watch him, what can I do?”

In reality most people are boring.

There’s that guy at work whose stock response to every question is “Nothing much,” your mate who manages to shoehorn his upcoming Ironman competition into every conversation, and that girl you always get stuck with at parties who only knows sentences that begin with “I.”

This is why we like going to the theatre, because the darkness gives us an excuse to ignore all the dull people around us.

And of course we get to spend our time with the far more interesting fictional people sharing their lives with us from the stage.

No one wants to see plays about boring people, because we all know enough of those already.

The question is… what makes someone interesting?

In my experience, interesting people share a few vital traits.

The first is that interesting things happen to them. It sounds crazy, but we’ve all got that friend who has a new story to tell every time we see them. And I’m not talking about people who seek out stories; anyone can buy a plane ticket to Brazil.

Truly interesting people aren’t even looking for adventure, it somehow just finds them.

I’ve got a mate who epitomises this trait. He recently told me that after a wild night out (unplanned, on a Tuesday) he was standing on an empty street with two friends having a drunken conversation. Pretty standard post-pub activity.

A guy across the street opens his front door and starts shouting at the group. Thinking he’s annoyed about the noise, they start to apologise.

But it turns out the guy isn’t bothered about the noise. He thinks they are selling drugs and he wants to score some cocaine.

Why would he shout this across the street for all his neighbours to hear?

Because he’s wearing an ankle tag which will summon the police if he steps out of his house.

There are only a few people I know who regularly find themselves in situations like this. From the mildly bizarre to the downright dangerous, something always happens to them.

What my mate did next perfectly illustrates the second trait I think all interesting people must display.

Remember, he’s standing in an otherwise empty street with his two friends, in the middle of the night, and a total stranger is asking him for coke.

Most boring (and sane) people would have simply turned and walked away from this obvious lunatic. Probably with a barely audible “No, I don’t have any drugs, sorry.”

But an interesting person would instead reply, as my buddy did, with a hearty “Yeah mate, yeah, we’ve got loads of coke.”

Even though he doesn’t have any at all.

Why would he do this?

Stupidity? A sense of adventure? A lack of concern for his own safety?

Who knows?

He and his two buddies wandered into this angry coke fiend’s house, sat down on his sofa, drank his beer, hit on his sister, and then told him they were only joking and didn’t really have any cocaine at all.

The dynamic trio were then chased from the house by the coke-hungry imbecile, who, remembering at the last second he couldn’t cross the threshold, stood in the doorway launching his own shoes into the street after them.

When something interesting happens to an interesting person, they don’t shy away from it. They don’t turn it down, they don’t quietly walk away. No, they embrace it with open arms, ignoring all warning signs and throwing themselves into undefined peril with a beaming smile on their reckless faces.

Interesting characters are interesting for exactly the same reasons that interesting people are interesting; when something interesting happens to them they take the interesting route through it.

And by “the interesting route,” I don’t mean they have to make a stupid decision or throw themselves into danger. They simply have to make a firm choice which is true to their personality and commits them to a definite course of action, and they have to stick to it.

Essentially, they have to show character.

If their decision is unconventional, difficult, reckless or just plain weird it can give you extra ammunition, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be any of these things. It can be as simple as taking action in a situation where most people would walk away.

The key point is that they make a decision which leads to further obstacles. At each obstacle they must make further decisions which remain true to their original decision.

Or they have to learn from their previous mistakes and keep moving forward.

In the example of my earlier anecdote, my mate found himself in an unusual situation and reacted recklessly. After his initial choice he had several opportunities to back out; he could have just come clean and admitted he didn’t have any cocaine and left the house.

But he was offered a beer. And, having drunk far too much already, he naturally accepted.

He then met his host’s sister. And despite the fact he was already in the house under false pretences and was about to absolutely ruin this guy’s night, he decided to go all-in and try his luck.

His combination of poor choices turned a throwaway happening into a full-blown odyssey of stupidity.

Interesting characters find themselves in interesting situations and make interesting decisions.

If it sounds simple and obvious, that’s because it is.

Try using this to diagnose your problem.

If you’re concerned your protagonist is boring, you first need to consider whether the situation is interesting enough. Are you presenting your protagonist with a problem to solve? What’s unusual about the problem? Is the problem big enough to carry a whole play?

If Hamlet’s hamster had died rather than his dad, would this be a big enough problem to precipitate the rest of the play’s events?

If Sauron had just wanted to use Bilbo’s ring to sneak into an advanced screening of Transformers 5 rather than take over Middle Earth, would it be worth Frodo’s trouble?

If your situation is interesting enough and the problem feels big enough to warrant a whole play then the fault probably lies with your protagonist’s decisions.

If Hamlet just calls in the royal exorcist to send ghost dad on his way, there’s no drama.

If Frodo just sends the ring to Mount Doom by motorbike courier and sits down to finish his dinner, there’s no drama.

In every play, novel and film I’ve ever read or seen the protagonist has opportunities to walk away. There’s always an easy way out. Interesting characters never take it.

Michael Corleone could have abandoned his extended family and run off to build an orphanage in the Congo, but instead he took over the running of his dad’s criminal empire, against his better judgment and moral outlook, because it was important to his old man. He then followed this one decision through with an escalating campaign of murder and corruption over three movies.

Vladimir and Estragon could have taken offence at Godot’s poor sense of timekeeping and jumped on the first bus home, but instead they waited and waited, and… *spoiler alert!* Godot never showed up. I don’t wait longer than fifteen minutes for anyone, which is what makes these characters so interesting; they make a conscious decision to continue waiting beyond any reasonable expectation of lateness.

Once you’ve identified the problem, it’s just a matter of considering the possibilities.

If your situation isn’t interesting enough try writing down every possible (and impossible) thing you could add or change to make it so.

Let’s say your protagonist, an aspiring graphic designer, can’t get a job. That sucks.

But it’s not quite a play.

Then she receives an eviction notice. Damn, now she really needs a job.

This is bad, but a lot of people are in this position, it’s not particularly remarkable.

Then her dog gets cancer and she’s faced with a hefty bill from the vet. Can this girl get a break?

Okay, now we’re talking. People love dogs, shit just got real.

As if all this wasn’t enough, a large, intimidating man from shows up demanding the 5,000% interest on that loan she took out six months ago.

Damn, she’s home alone, already feeling vulnerable, and a nasty debt-collector type has shown up. But surely he’s a professional, just doing his job, how bad can it get?

Just when it seems things can’t get any worse, it turns out the Wonga guy’s mum just died in a graphic design related accident for which he has sworn vengeance on all designers everywhere. Now he’s hell-bent on exacting a violent and bloody revenge.

A little bit of a ridiculous example but I’m sure you get the somewhat dubious point. Now this man has a reason to take the situation beyond what’s expected of him. He also has a story to tell. And maybe the girl will bond with him over the imminent loss of her dog and they’ll end up being friends.

Or maybe he’ll murder her in a symbolic and scathing indictment of payday loan companies.

Escalating the situation is a surefire way to make everything more interesting. If in doubt, raise the stakes.

But say our situation is already this well-crafted and intriguing, yet we still feel our protagonist is boring? She still hasn’t really taken any action.

So now we need to examine our protagonist’s decisions.

When she is unable to get a graphic design job, she sits down with a computer and uploads her CV to She then sits indoors and waits for the offers to come rolling in.

I was bored just writing that. Who would watch it?

No offers are forthcoming so she signs up to teach an art class at her local community centre.

At least this is proactive, and it has potential nudity. Still not that enthralling though.

A local pimp, with a passing interest in watercolours, offers her a job airbrushing images of his girls to make them look more attractive so he can get the edge on his online competitors. She beats down her self-worth, launches her moral compass into the ocean, and goes to work full-time marketing prostitutes.

Now we’ve got some drama; young innocent girl is corrupted by unfortunate economic circumstances and sells out her gender to survive.

The debt collector shows up, she defuses the situation by making him a cup of tea and they amicably agree on a flexible repayment plan which will see her debt free in ten years, as long as her new career takes off.


The debt collector shows up, she panics and gives him a fake name, saying her indebted flatmate will be back later. He says he’ll wait.

Now this is tense. The flatmate will never show up because she doesn’t exist. And this man is clearly determined to get his pound of flesh. What exactly is our heroine planning to do now?

As he’s admiring a heavily photoshopped image on her laptop, she knocks him out with a snowglobe she’s had on the mantelpiece since Christmas. She then ties him to the radiator with an improvised rope made of old knickers.

Now she’s got the upper hand, and someone on whom to take out all her frustration.

When he refuses to negotiate the interest on her loan down to a reasonable level, she flips and starts torturing him with a car battery and a pair of pliers. He has a heart attack and dies.


Instead of handing herself in to the police, she decides to move to Peru and teach graphic design to impoverished children. She hatches a plan to rob the pimp and go on the run with nothing but her cancer-stricken dog and trusty iMac Pro to keep her warm at night.

Now this is a woman I’d like to meet at a party.

Obviously this is just an example. And it might be a bit ridiculous, but the point stands. It doesn’t matter what sort of play you’re writing, if the situation isn’t interesting it’s very difficult for the protagonist to be interesting.

And an interesting situation doesn’t automatically create an interesting protagonist. It’s the way in which characters react to their circumstances that makes them interesting.

Put your protagonist in a difficult situation and explore all their options. What would you do? What would the stupidest/bravest/weirdest/most interesting person you know do?

What would you love to see someone do?

You often hear established writers say that they love spending time with their characters or they feel down when they finish a play or novel because the journey is over. This should be your first thought when working on anything; are you enjoying it?

If not, always ask yourself why. Try to take an honest look at the work the way we’ve done above and choose the situations and actions you think would be the most interesting to write.

You mentioned in your question that if you’re bored by your own work other people will likely be bored by it too. But the opposite is also true; if you’re excited by your work it’s likely other people will find it exciting as well. Not everyone obviously, we’re all different, but as long as you’re not a complete weirdo you won’t be alone.

In fact, scrap that, a lot of successful writers are absolutely bonkers and people love them all the more for it.

I think the key is to make sure you’re enjoying the process of writing. If the work doesn’t excite you as you write it, you can’t expect others to get excited about reading it.

Have a question or problem you’d like to send in?  Email and keep your eyes peeled to see if the answer turns up on our site!

(DISCLAIMER: If you send us a question, you’re giving us permission to publish it!  Be sure to indicate what name you’d like us to use as a sign when we publish your column, and a just a heads up that we reserve the right to edit submissions for length if needed.)

Pursued By A Bear: “I’ve got Writer’s Block. How do I start writing again?”

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.    

I’ve got writers block, I’ve been checking my Facebook page a thousand times a day and have cleaned my skirting boards with a toothbrush. Can you help?

You’ve got writer’s block? Is that an official diagnosis? Which tests did your GP order to arrive at that conclusion? Red blood cell count? Erythrocyte sedimentation rate? Maybe your cholesterol was on the high side?

What’s the prognosis? Can you expect a full recovery or will there be some lingering discomfort?

As far as I know, no one has ever died of writer’s block.

I rang NHS Choices just to be sure, and a nice lady named Karen assured me that in most cases sufferers of writer’s block can expect a full and robust recovery in six to eight months with minimal risk of further complications. You will need to keep an eye on your iron levels though as a particularly nasty case of writer’s block has been known to cause mild anaemia.

Actually, none of the above is true.

Karen told me to stop wasting her time and taxpayers’ money. She also advised me that I could completely clear my writer’s blockage by snapping on a pair of rubber gloves and forcibly removing my head from my arse.

I found this to be a refreshing, if slightly impolite, take on the most horrifying phrase in any writer’s lexicon.

We’re all terrified of the idea of writer’s block. But no one really knows what the hell it is.

Basically, it’s when you can’t write.

Well, you can write, but you just don’t feel like it’s very good.

Well, I mean, if you really stick at it you can probably squeeze out something half decent.

You just don’t feel all that inspired.

It’s honestly starting to feel like a bit of a chore.

You’ve tried persevering, but the last half an hour has been hell.

All you’ve come up with is eighteen first lines, none of which are particularly awe-inspiring.

And you just can’t seem to find the right font for the stage directions.

It’s exactly this kind of vague, wishy-washy complaint that leads people who don’t consider themselves writers (most normal people) to think that writer’s block doesn’t actually exist. They all think it’s some kind of weak excuse that lazy writers use to justify their lack of productive output.

And maybe they’re right.

But it wasn’t always this way. When you wrote your first play it was all so easy. The words flowed out of you like vomit from the mouth of an inebriated teenager. It was effortless.

What changed?

It’s actually very simple.

When you wrote that first play, it was an experiment. You didn’t know what the hell you were doing. You thought you’d probably never finish it anyway. It was all just a bit of fun.

When you did finish it, you were over the moon. What a fantastic achievement, you wrote a play!

Sure, it was a bit rough around the edges.

The plot didn’t really go anywhere.

It didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

All the characters were pretty much the same person. You.

Overall, it was a bit shit.

So you set out to write another one. But this time, you figured you’d do the smart thing, and put some thought into it. You probably did a little bit of this before you started writing. Then you probably continued thinking throughout the process.

The second play turned out a lot better.

You realised you’re actually not overly terrible at this. So you wrote another one. Then another. And with each one, you put a bit more thought into it. You started reading other people’s plays and thinking you could write something like that. You might even be able to write something better.

And one day there came a pivotal moment. That moment you first referred to yourself as a writer.

“I am now a Writer. I’m no longer just some ordinary muppet with a pen. It’s official, I, [insert name here], am a Writer.”

You were proud of your newfound identity. It gave you a sense of status, a sense of being something more than you were. A purpose. Better yet, a calling. You were meant for something greater than the average slouch.

For the first few months you only referred to yourself as a writer inside your head. You wanted to make sure it stuck before you shared it with the outside world. They might not understand. After all, the life of a writer is a difficult one, filled with noble sacrifices.

But eventually you began to really believe it. You told someone, probably your mum, about your life-changing realisation.

This joyous news didn’t quite elicit the jubilant reaction you were expecting, more of a long, pitying look followed by a series of questions which are really just one question phrased in slightly different ways, as if your mum had somehow got the impression English was no longer your first language.

All the questions ultimately added up to; “But how will you get money?”

And that was the moment that your destiny was spelled out. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, you would become the victim of that most horrific of probably-fictional ailments, the dreaded writer’s block.

Because on that day your beautiful, all-consuming, passionate pursuit was irreversibly altered, twisted, beaten and deformed into something else entirely.

Writing became a job.

As soon as you began calling yourself a writer, it changed the act of writing from a beloved, voluntary pastime to a compulsory means of economic survival.

So now you have to do it.

All the time.

Whether you’re inspired or not.

And it’s beginning to feel like a bit of a grind.

This is the hideous reality that most normal people face every day of their lives. It’s called work.

How do they all cope in this awful situation?

They put their heads down and think of the money.

It might go against your delicate artistic sensibilities to think this way, but let me break it down for you in simple terms.

If you’re precious about writing and allow yourself to succumb to writer’s block, you won’t write anything.

This means you’ll never earn money from your writing.

If you are currently lucky enough to be a full-time writer, this means you’ll have to find another means of economic survival… yes, I’m going to say it… you’ll have to get a real job.

And if you’re currently writing in your spare time with the hope of making it a full-time vocation and quitting your miserable daytime existence as a barista/telesales robot/corporate drone/cheap prostitute, the same applies. If you don’t write, you’ll never make money from writing, and you’ll never change your situation.

Of course, putting your nose to the grindstone is a lot harder when you don’t have a boss. There’s no foot on the back of your neck holding you there. You’re free to endlessly browse the internet, iron the curtains, vacuum the dog, shampoo your scrotum or run naked through the woods whenever you like.

As humans, the one thing we hate the most is feeling we have to do something.

Even if it’s something we ultimately want to do.

We’ll do it on our own terms, when it’s convenient for us, thank you very much.

This is why bosses were invented, and factories around the world began churning them out in their millions. Because we need someone to force us into doing what we really know we should already be doing.

As a writer you are essentially self-employed. No one’s going to look over your shoulder for eight hours a day as you tap away on your laptop in bed. Unless you have an unusually attentive spouse.

If you’re just feeling a bit unmotivated and find you’re struggling to find the willpower to keep going with a project my advice would be:

Find yourself a stick and a carrot.

I do not mean this literally. Unless you’re genuinely afraid of sticks and hopelessly in love with carrots.

As you’re unlikely to find a boss who will work for no pay, why not train an animal? You can pick up a ferret or a parrot from any good pet shop, and simply train it to attack you whenever you stop typing.

Alternatively, impose sanctions on yourself like America did to Cuba back in the sixties. Make your writing area a restricted zone, don’t allow any nice imports, and force all visitors to fly in via Canada.

Or, build a robot arm and programme it to slap you round the back of the head every time you turn to look out the window.

There are an infinite number of punishments out there, don’t be afraid to get creative. Although, with your terminal case of writer’s block that might be a bit of a challenge.

As for the carrot, I don’t imagine you decided to be a writer because you despise the act of stringing words together. Try to always see the fun side of writing. Yes, it’s a job now, but it’s a job you wanted to do because you love it.

If writing itself isn’t carrot-like enough for you, just keep telling yourself that when you’re a gazillionaire author pumping out remarkably mediocre and heartless airport novels, and sapping ten billion I.Q. points per minute from the collective brain of the nation, you’ll never have to set foot in that coffee shop/call centre/office block/brothel again.

Or consider another career.

If you really genuinely feel something other than a lack of motivation is stopping you from writing, whatever it may be, there are ways to avoid this kind of rut too.

When I first started writing I found it fun and effortless. I felt completely free to write whatever I wanted and attacked every project fearlessly. I never thought about where the play was going or who my audience was, I just wrote it. And oddly enough, I think I did some of my best work this way.

Since I began taking writing seriously I’ve found myself asking a lot more questions. Is this going to make sense to anyone else? Who would pay to see this? Is there a theatre on earth that would put this on? And inevitably, this makes the whole process feel like a regular job.

You might as well book yourself a quarterly appraisal and start plotting your daily output on a graph.

So I came up with a simple system that would get me writing like I did in the beginning.

As part of every project I set aside time for planning before I start writing. In this time I ask all the above questions and more. Is there a market for this play? Do I have a theatre in mind? Who would be my audience? Does this story have enough mileage in it for a full length play? Does this story need to be told? Has it been told before? What’s different about it?

And the most important question of all: Am I interested enough in this story to finish it? Because if you’re not interested in the story it’s always going to be a struggle.

By getting all of these questions out of the way first I free myself up to be creative and enjoy writing the actual thing without constant doubts cropping up. You don’t need to plan the entire plot or write detailed character profiles (unless you feel that helps you), the main thing is to build up some momentum. Get yourself excited about the play and simultaneously banish your doubts before getting down to writing.

And always remember, writing is the fun part.

Have a question or problem you’d like to send in?  Email and keep your eyes peeled to see if the answer turns up on our site!

(DISCLAIMER: If you send us a question, you’re giving us permission to publish it!  Be sure to indicate what name you’d like us to use as a sign when we publish your column, and a just a heads up that we reserve the right to edit submissions for length if needed.)

Pursued By A Bear: “Am I too old to become a playwright?”

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.    

“I’m leaving the ‘young person’ bracket later this year, and I feel like a lot of doors are going to be closed to me. Should I be worried about getting older, and what are your top tips for writers who no longer qualify for all the youth-centric schemes?”

Yes you should be worried about getting older. People can reel off all the supposed positives about aging they want but the undeniable truth is that it’s akin to being chained to an ascending escalator with a malnourished shark at the top.

I can understand how you feel though. You might find this hard to believe given the youthful exuberance of my writing, but I myself recently turned thirty.

As assisted suicide is not yet legal I’ve found myself with no option but to keep forging on, with nothing but regrets and arthritis to cling to now that I can no longer engage in the pastimes of my youth; bare-knuckle boxing, base-jumping and spearing lobsters on the ocean floor with a sharpened stick.

It’s true, according to the arbitrary brackets designated by some ageist deities on the untouchable heights of theatre Olympus, we are no longer ‘young people’.

So we must be old, right? Old hat, irrelevant, over the hill, past it. Our best years are behind us. We are now in the winter of life.

It’s a sad fact that many doors will be closed to us.

The doors of student nightclubs.

The doors to Taylor Swift’s dressing room.

The doors to the Australian department of immigration.

But on the plus side, other doors will open.

The doors to assisted living homes.

The doors to the Orthopaedic ward of our local hospital.

And soon enough, those little doors at the end of the conveyor belt in the crematorium.

People say that youth is wasted on the young. I didn’t agree with them before, but now that I’ve crossed the line from young person to time-worn relic of a bygone era, I think they’re entirely right.

After turning thirty back in May I can reflect on things I did in my wayward youth with the benefit of hindsight. I now realise that when I was young, I was a total moron.

In February, for example, I opened a bottle of chocolate milk in a moving car and spilled the entire thing down my shirt.

In March, I ordered takeaway from Nandos and didn’t look in the bag until I got home, and it was too late to complain about the absence of spicy rice.

In April, I used a company credit card to buy every Nicolas Cage film in existence, lost my job and got kicked out of the house by my wife.

But since my birthday in May when I crossed that pivotal threshold and became ancient I have the benefit of centuries of wisdom to help me avoid making such stupid, youthful mistakes.

I also know a lot more stuff.

I know you shouldn’t eat cheese before bed.

I know the names of different birds.

I know that manners cost nothing.

I know that when cows sit down it’s going to rain.

I know how to cook liver and onions.

And I know that being old sucks.

But I also know that if you want to be a writer, age isn’t such a big deal. It does seem unfair that there are so many great writing schemes around that we no longer qualify for because we’re almost dead, but let’s look at this from another angle.

Why are there so many great schemes aimed at helping young writers?

Because it’s difficult for young writers to get their work produced.

And why is it difficult for young writers to get produced?

Because theatres are too busy putting on plays by older, more established writers.

Using the ever-reliable and accurate font of information that is Wikipedia let’s take a look at the ages of some successful contemporary playwrights:

Caryl Churchill, seventy seven years old and still going strong.

Roy Williams, forty seven.

Jez Butterworth, forty six.

Simon Stephens, forty four.

Bola Agbaje, thirty four.

Is there life beyond thirty for a playwright? I think so.

What you need to keep telling yourself is that as you get older you will also get less stupid (barring any serious head injuries). You’ll have more experience to draw from, you’ll gain a deeper perspective on life and you will have spent more time honing your craft.

Don’t forget that most young writers’ schemes are aimed at developing talent, not necessarily discovering it. If you’ve already been seriously pursuing a career as a writer, you’ve probably done a lot of development for yourself.

If you feel you still need guidance in your development there are tons of writing groups out there. Find one that suits your needs and start attending regularly. The best thing about most young writers’ schemes is being able to get feedback on your work from someone with industry experience. So find a writing group that encourages constructive feedback, preferably alongside opportunities to hear readings of your work.

Seeing your work staged is another crucial step in your development. Keep an eye out for scratch nights and open submissions for short plays. These are great opportunities to see how an audience (however small) reacts to your work. The investment of time required is generally small and there are normally tight deadlines which will really motivate you to get stuck in.

I was lucky enough to get onto a young writers’ scheme many moons ago. I was a sprightly young man then, it was before my first knee replacement surgery, at a time when I still had all my own teeth. I remember that Dennis Kelly came in to talk to us and I was amazed to learn that he didn’t start writing seriously until he reached the epic milestone of thirty years old.

At the time I remember thinking that thirty was about a week away from death.

According to Wikipedia, Kelly is still alive and well.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that age isn’t so much of an issue if you want to be a writer. If you had dreams of pursuing a gold medal in Olympic Taekwondo at the age of thirty it would be a different story.

As long as you’re physically and mentally able to write, you still have a chance to make a name for yourself. In fact, even after death it remains a very slight possibility, look at the posthumous success of Stieg Larsson’s novels.

So crack on, develop yourself. And if you’re finding it too much of a struggle or you misplace your bifocals, just use a bigger font.

Have a question or problem you’d like to send in?  Email and keep your eyes peeled to see if the answer turns up on our site!

(DISCLAIMER: If you send us a question, you’re giving us permission to publish it!  Be sure to indicate what name you’d like us to use as a sign when we publish your column, and a just a heads up that we reserve the right to edit submissions for length if needed.)

Pursued By A Bear: “I’m struggling to finish my first play, should I just give up?”

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.    

“I’m writing my first full-length play, and IT’S SO HARD.  I’ve made it about halfway through, but I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, and I don’t know how to finish it.  I’m not even enjoying writing it anymore.  I’m trying not to get too bummed out about it, but it’s starting to make me really depressed.  Does this mean I’m not meant to be a playwright? – Sam C.

Is anyone meant to be a playwright? I doubt it.

To an outsider it seems like a pleasant enough occupation; sit around thinking for a bit, jot some ideas down, spend a couple of hours typing, pop along to a rehearsal and flirt with some attractive actors, collect your Olivier Award, sell the film rights, retire to an island paradise.

In my limited experience, it doesn’t always happen that way.

If I were to sum up my personal writing process it would go something like this:

Think of an idea for a new play.

Get a bit excited.

Realise it will probably be shit.

Start planning it anyway.

Run out of steam.

Stop planning it.

Decide to start writing, assuming it will work itself out.

Bash out a promising first act.

Run out of steam again.

Begin hating the play, myself and all of humanity.

Keep writing but despise every second of it.

Consider quitting and moving to Malaysia to pursue a more rewarding career as a crocodile wrestler.

Quit but stay at home hating my life.

Pick up the play again months later and discover it actually wasn’t that horrendous.

Decide to finish the play.

Wake up three days later in the foetal position in my shower clinging onto an empty tequila bottle.

Walk it off.

Finish the play.

Rewrite the play ad infinitum until someone physically beats me to the floor and rips it from my unconscious grasp.

Get another idea.

But that’s just the way I like to work. I’m sure other people have their own variations, but they’re probably pretty similar overall.

I like to think of playwrights as being like those insane salmon that swim upstream to lay their eggs even though the rushing water literally rips the flesh off their bones and they die slowly in excruciating pain, struggling every second of the way.

We’re all idiots.

But don’t let that stop you. Because once you’ve finished the play you might feel good about it. Probably not, but maybe.

All joking aside, don’t get depressed about not being able to finish your play. No writer ever really finishes anything, if it was down to us we’d just keep rewriting and editing forever because it hasn’t reached that level of perfection that only exists in our twisted minds. I’ve already rewritten this answer eighteen times, and I’m still tweaking it.

The most useful piece of advice I can give you is to force yourself to keep going. Keep reminding yourself that it’s a first draft and it’s going to have a lot of problems. You can probably see some of those problems already, but just ignore them for now. It’s the only way you’ll get through.

Think of every great play you’ve ever seen in your life.

I guarantee you that none of those were first drafts. Not one.

The key is in the word first, implying that there are others to follow. This is your first draft of your first play. You should be congratulating yourself for getting halfway through. You’ve done better than a lot of people.

Even the most talented and accomplished writers have insecurities about their work. If there was a pie chart showing the percentage of people from various professions who have enjoyed at least one stay in a mental institution, that would be the biggest slice of pie most writers are ever likely to get.

Because once you’ve finished the first draft you enter the rewriting stage.

And that’s where it gets really painful.

You’ll then have to keep reading over the garbled nonsense you wrote before and trying to make sense of it. You’ll have to twist it and carve it and squash it into some kind of shape that you’re able to show to another human being without branding your soul with indelible shame.

This part is the equivalent of our poor, dead salmon being revived by scientists and kept alive in a tiny fish tank full of mirrors with nothing to eat but its own eggs for what feels like a thousand years.

The key thing to remember through all of this is that you wanted to be a writer. And this is what being a writer is all about; insecurity, self-loathing and deep, deep despair.

Only joking.

Being a writer is about writing stuff.

Don’t go insane over your first play. If you stick at this writing thing, it will not be your best work.

That may sound negative but I genuinely mean it to lift a weight off your shoulders.

This play could well turn out to be awful.

But if it does, who cares? It’s your first ever play.

How much training do you think Muhammad Ali put in before winning the World Heavyweight Championship the first time? He didn’t just wake up that morning and think “Maybe I’ll give boxing a go.” He started training at age twelve and won that belt at twenty two. After ten years of hard graft. And yes, he won a hundred amateur fights prior to becoming the champ, but even he still chalked up five losses during that time.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to equal Death of a Salesman on your first go. You’ll be overwhelmed with feelings of inferiority and never get to the end.

I think of everything I write as another step up the learning curve. This takes away a lot of the pressure and allows me room to be creative without feeling like what I’m writing isn’t good enough. Think of this play as part of your training and it will give you forward momentum, whereas striving for perfection at this stage will just keep you tweaking and rewriting and never getting to the end of that first draft.

So when you do get to the end of this play, if you’re not happy with it, just call it a practice and start writing another one. Then write another one, and another one, and keep going until you write something you’re really proud of.

And then write more.

Writing plays isn’t easy, just as anything worth doing isn’t. But it does get easier. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that writing is something you’re either born to do or not. Yes, it requires a certain amount of talent, but just like any other art form, a large part of it is down to training and developing the necessary skills.

Ali didn’t float out of the womb like a butterfly, he did ten years of skipping and shadowboxing to perfect that footwork. I’m not saying you need to spend ten years jumping rope and fighting imaginary opponents in front of the mirror. I’m saying you need to give yourself a chance to get started before you give up.

Have a question or problem you’d like to send in?  Email and keep your eyes peeled to see if the answer turns up on our site!

(DISCLAIMER: If you send us a question, you’re giving us permission to publish it!  Be sure to indicate what name you’d like us to use as a sign when we publish your column, and a just a heads up that we reserve the right to edit submissions for length if needed.)

Pursued By A Bear: “Help! The pigeons outside my window are driving me crazy!”

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.    

“I write in my bedroom, and the pigeons that live outside are seriously creepy.  I feel like I can hear them burrowing through the wall.  I can’t listen to music while I write, even earplugs distract me.  Any ideas on how to actually get back to writing?” – A.L.

There’s an easy solution to this problem.

All you need to do is abseil from the roof of your house or flat or cell block and install pigeon-proofing spikes on the windowsill outside your room. This will get rid of the pigeons and bring you some glorious peace and quiet in which to hear yourself think.

However, this is a short term solution.

What happens when your flatmate gets a girlfriend? Imagine the two of them, at it all night like howling beasts, tearing up the furniture and knocking holes in the plasterboard. Again, pigeon-proofing offers a quick fix, but even if you do manage to sneak into their room and install spikes all around the bed, they’ll just move to the kitchen table.

What about your neighbour who discovers an enduring love of drum and bass?

What about your twin nephews who come to live with you after their parents are killed in a tragic skiing accident and are always fighting about who’s Batman and who’s Robin?

What about that guy across the street who keeps climbing onto his roof naked and loudly abusing pedestrians while throwing his own excrement at passing cars?

Although I clung onto the notion for many years, sadly pigeon-proofing can’t solve everything.

There will always be distractions. And a lot of them will be things you can do absolutely nothing about.

But don’t give up hope. As you’ll come to learn, I have a deeply suspect and morally dubious answer to everything.

First of all, I know you probably think your earth-shattering ideas and soul-tingling exchanges of dialogue are trumpeted directly into your ears by benevolent angels with a vested interest in producing good theatre… but they’re not.

Everything you write comes from inside your brain. Don’t ask me what all that weird shit is doing in there, those are your issues. The fact is that it’s all in your head, so don’t let a couple of rowdy, inconsiderate pigeons stop you from tapping into it.

Think of all the letters and poems that soldiers wrote in the trenches during the First World War. How many moments of silent reflection do you think they had between falling shells? They sat in muddy puddles, with bullets ripping past their heads, rats gnawing on their toes, writing in the brief gaps between dysentery-induced toilet trips. And they were in France.

Great works of literature have always been written in circumstances of great adversity; during revolutions, wars, famines, plagues, and from hospital beds, prison cells, the bottom of wells, the pits of abject poverty and despair.

I guarantee your all-time favourite writer didn’t let a few pigeons or some uncomfortable earplugs get to them, otherwise that play or novel you love so dearly wouldn’t exist.

For the vast majority of writers, silence is a luxury. I personally cannot remember a single occasion when I’ve written anything in silence. I’d love to move to Japan and tranquilly tap out masterpieces by the side of a glistening, carp-filled pond, surrounded by cherry blossom and statuesque, meditating monks.

But shockingly that hasn’t happened.

As I write this very sentence I’m sitting in a crowded office, simultaneously trying to eat my lunch, explain to my colleague why I don’t watch the Great British Bake Off, block out the noise of rowdy workmen who are demolishing the building around me and watch a particularly bad driver struggle to manoeuvre a tiny car into the biggest parking space I’ve ever seen outside.

How am I still making sense? Maybe I’m not. I’ll leave that up to you to judge.

But the point is I’ve trained myself to ignore absolutely everything going on around me. Because, short of relocating to an Arctic weather station, I know I’ll never have the ideal conditions to write.

Most of the time I’ll put on some music to drown out the background noise. Music is the best thing for this because it’s constant so after a while you can just zone out until you don’t even really hear it.

Try picking music that matches the mood you’re trying to create in whatever you’re writing. For example, if I’m writing a scene where the dialogue is getting a bit heated and there’s a fight brewing I’ll listen to something that matches that feeling. I’m a big hip hop fan so it will typically be Mobb Deep or the Wu Tang Clan. Something that feels hostile and moody.

Obviously if it’s a tender love scene I’ll go for something calmer and more sentimental. Like Busta Rhymes.

Some people say they prefer listening to instrumental music with no lyrics otherwise they find themselves inadvertently paying attention to the words. Personally I don’t often have this problem but if you do there are plenty of options out there. Classical music typically has no vocals and handily comes in a variety of moods to cover every occasion.

And you’ll find that after you’ve worked with background music for a while, you’ll develop the ability to block out other distractions as well. I now find I can write without any trouble in even the most noisy and uncomfortable places; in moving vehicles, nightclubs, the dentist’s, police cells and on horseback, to name a few.

Once you start forcing yourself to work through the distractions, you’ll start to realise that even the most inhospitable environments can provide great inspiration. I’ll follow with some notable modern examples:

Channing Tatum came up with the idea for the Shakespeare-esque masterpiece Magic Mike while working as an erotic dancer in a strip club in Tampa;

Stockbroker and utter bastard Jordan Belfort wrote his seminal autobiography The Wolf of Wall Street while sniffing cocaine off the hairless arse of an angry baboon in the passenger seat of a Lamborghini;

Ex-Disney pawn and probable prostitute Miley Cyrus composed her magnum opus Wrecking Ball while working as an apprentice bricklayer on a building site in Slough.

If all else fails, why not take inspiration from these luminaries and write a film script about a flock of pigeons that subject you to an intense campaign of harassment before pecking your eyes out and taking over a small seaside town?

But seriously, I know that when you’re trying to get your brain into that special creative place even the most minor distraction can be really disruptive. It does sometimes feel like ideas are tiny feathers floating on the breeze, and that even the gentlest sparrow’s fart is enough to send them spiralling out of reach.

You can’t let that stop you or you’ll never get anything done. There are a lot of distractions you can avoid. If your spouse is constantly asking you to take the bins out while you’re trying to write you could try explaining in a reasonable and calm tone of voice that you’re trying to work. If that fails, lock yourself (or your loved one) in the bathroom and continue in peace.

Unfortunately we’ll never be able to rid the world of pigeons. So if you want to be a writer, you will need to develop a bit of resilience. It’s either that or undertake astronaut training and move to the International Space Station.

Have a question or problem you’d like to send in?  Email and keep your eyes peeled to see if the answer turns up on our site!

(DISCLAIMER: If you send us a question, you’re giving us permission to publish it!  Be sure to indicate what name you’d like us to use as a sign when we publish your column, and a just a heads up that we reserve the right to edit submissions for length if needed.)

Pursued By A Bear: “How can I use stage directions to keep a bad director from ruining my play?”

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.    

“How smart should I assume my director will be when I’m writing a play? How much detail is it necessary to put into stage directions, how clear should it be where I want the emphasis to be in a line of dialogue, etc? I don’t want to spell everything out for them, but I want to make sure my writing isn’t misinterpreted.” – Anonymous

I’ve often asked myself this, and have come to the inescapable conclusion that the safest option is to assume that everyone is a moron. I’m not just talking about directors in the theatre either, this assumption has literally become the mantra by which I live my entire life.

Everyone is a moron.

Me. You. Everyone.

If you’re that desperate to know whether your director is a moron (my money’s on yes), then I guess there are a few ways you could attempt to find out.

Before agreeing to work with anyone, you could ask them to fax over their qualifications, that is, if you feel a D in GCSE maths and a ten metre backstroke badge will give you a better idea of their suitability to direct your play.

You could get them in a headlock and forcibly submit them to an IQ test.

You could imprison them in a giant maze and time how long it takes them to find their way out.

You could submit them to a series of rigorous interviews and humiliating challenges on live television and then get members of the general public to phone in and vote for the smartest candidate.

But my guess is you probably don’t have the time or the budget to do most of these things. And I doubt any of them would work anyway.

You’ve probably heard the saying “Everything is open to interpretation.” In my opinion this is just a polite way of saying that everything is open to misinterpretation. No matter how hard you try to safeguard against this, the genuine stupidity inherent in the human race will inevitably find a way through.

As I outlined above, I strongly believe that everyone is a moron. I’d like to qualify this by saying that most people are not morons all of the time.

I will humbly offer myself as an example. There are certain things I’m quite good at; frying an egg, typing without looking at the keys and belittling strangers on the internet.

And there are other things at which I’m an outright moron; making small talk, watching sports and running a bath at a temperature in which a human being can survive.

Am I the right person to fry you up a nice full English on a Sunday morning or insult you for no reason while hiding behind the anonymity offered by thousands of miles of fibre optic cable? I’ll have a good go.

Am I the right person to engage with in harmless conversation about the cricket or run you a soothing bath? Definitely not.

Before I lose track of the point entirely, we were discussing how much detail you should put into your stage directions to prevent a director from butchering your massively intellectual masterpiece.

The answer is, as much or as little as you want. In all likelihood it won’t make a blind bit of difference so just do whatever the hell you like.

If it makes you feel warm and fuzzy to inflate your play to the thickness of a Charles Dickens novel with descriptions of the furniture, go for it.

On the other hand, if you feel like the dialogue is the important part and you couldn’t give less of a crap about what colour the rug is, feel free to keep the stage directions as sparse as the helpful advice in this column.

This is the part where any playwright worth his salt would give an example to back up his point, probably involving a famous actor who performed in (and of course loved) one of his productions. This has never happened to me so I’ll tell a barely relevant anecdote involving a hack of a director whose name I can’t even remember.

It’s not that interesting so I’ll get straight to the point. Basically I questioned the director as to why the lead actor kept ignoring my stage direction, which clearly stated in plain English that he should “imperiously stride across the stage and vehemently slap his oppressor in the face.”

The director replied, “I never really read the bits in italics.”

The lesson you need to learn is that there’s no point agonising over stage directions. Seventy-five percent of the cast and crew in any production skim-reads them at best. The other twenty-five percent read them just to see if they’re any good, and discover they usually aren’t (in subsequent productions these people join their peers in the seventy-five percent). Therefore, what you need to do is concentrate on writing the best play you can.

If the play has an engaging story with unique and memorable characters no one will even notice what colour the rug is.

And remember, although everyone is a moron in some respect, it’s definitely for the best if you try to work with directors who are not morons at directing plays. Always try to see one of their productions or get the recommendation of someone you trust who has worked with them

If you’ve written a good play, a good director will be able to bring your vision to life and strengthen it in ways you never even considered. They’ll do this with a combination of wacky rehearsal rituals, bizarre improvisational exercises and swathes of illegible post-it-notes that might as well be voodoo for all you know. All that will matter is that the end result will be so much more than you imagined.

A bad director, on the other hand, will use much of the same voodoo but somehow stage a production that makes you want to change your name and move to Alaska.

Unfortunately the nature of working in theatre means that often you won’t get a say in who the director is. When a moron is thrust upon you by some errant producer all you can do is try to limit the damage by diplomatically pointing out the areas where you feel the production could be improved.

And when that doesn’t work, you’re forced to resort to childish sulking and blatant name-calling. On the bright side, at least someone saw enough value in your work to take the time to ruin it.

Have a question or problem you’d like to send in?  Email and keep your eyes peeled to see if the answer turns up on our site!

(DISCLAIMER: If you send us a question, you’re giving us permission to publish it!  Be sure to indicate what name you’d like us to use as a sign when we publish your column, and a just a heads up that we reserve the right to edit submissions for length if needed.)

Pursued By A Bear: “How do I make time to write without giving up my social life?”

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.    

“Writing is a lonely business. How can I make time for my writing whilst being a good boyfriend and keeping up an active social life?”

Yes, the life of the writer is a lonely and sad affair. Hours and days spent hunched over a typewriter in a damp basement with nothing but a flickering candle for company. Who would choose such a depressing pursuit?

And, more to the point, who the hell would want to hang out with someone who chooses to do that voluntarily?

Writers are lonely because we’re by nature anti-social, grouchy loners who have dedicated our lives to studying the human condition, ironically from a distance because we really dislike most people. They don’t understand us, they can’t conceive of our struggle, they will never appreciate the challenges we face every day in our endless quest for recognition from the very people we despise and seek to distance ourselves from.

To think of the sacrifices we’ve made, and continue to make every second, as we plumb the depths of artistic despair, destined to forever be alone with nothing but our thoughts and endless cups of tea to console us.

At least that’s what I tell people.

It’s really not all that bad. I actually went out yesterday. Saw some daylight. It was nice.

The truth is that the stereotype of the lonely writer is just that, a stereotype. And, much like a good play, real life isn’t full of stereotypes.

As a writer, I can’t deny that interacting with other members of the human race is not my favourite activity. I do spend a lot of time hunched over my keyboard like a deranged lunatic thrashing out his manifesto for the misguided advancement of mankind.

But this guy at my day job keeps telling me about this new-fangled concept called the “work-life balance.” Apparently we’re all engaged in this perpetual balancing act.

You can’t let the scales slip too far in the direction of work, or you’ll have no life.

And if they slide too far the other way, you’ll have… too much life… yeah, I haven’t quite grasped that part either. For me it’s more like a work-life battle, much like the immortal battle between good and evil.

Anyway, he’s probably less of a moron than me in this regard so let’s take his word for it. The trouble then becomes that, as artists, we often make the mistake of thinking that our work is our life.

So, if writing is our life, then all those insignificant nuisances that other (normal) people think of as life become obstacles to be avoided. Most of these activities are things which involve some form of discourse with other humans.

Why would I spend my time and words speaking on the phone to a friend when I could be using that time and those words to further my artistic ambitions while sitting alone at my computer?

Why would I go out to eat with other people when there’s a convenient space for a pot noodle next to my mouse mat?

Why would I waste time travelling to visit my elderly relatives before they pass from this mortal coil when I could just wait for them to bite it and use my guilt-ridden grief as inspiration for a mournful and soul-destroying play about lost loved ones?

At first glance all of these may seem like valid and perfectly reasonable questions. But let’s look a bit deeper.

If you were paying attention a few paragraphs back when I said that a good play isn’t full of stereotypes, you’ll remember that I cleverly drew a parallel with real life. In reality, people are not stereotypes. We’re all unique and delicate little snowflakes.

Stereotypes are mostly found where there is a lack of sufficient knowledge and/or intelligence to draw a meaningful or thorough portrait of a person. Thus the gaps are filled in with assumptions and generalisations which might occasionally be mildly amusing but are rarely accurate or fulfilling.

They can mainly be found inside the puny minds of unenlightened people and the pages of badly written plays.

Bringing all of the above to a point, why would a play be full of stereotypical characters?

Because the writer doesn’t know anything about people. Or at least about the people he or she wants to write about.

Good writers know and understand the people they are writing about. And what’s the best way to get to know and understand people?

You could try interacting with them every now and then for a start.

Spending time with other people won’t stop you being a good writer. I’d argue that it’s actually essential, which is why I try to do it often despite my deeply ingrained disdain for the human race.

Whether it’s discussing the pitfalls of the work-life balance with a guy at work, sharing a meal with old friends in the outside world or having a domestic with my wife over my inability to get the laundry inside the basket from the other side of the room, it all feeds into what I write.

Don’t look at social time as a waste of valuable writing time, instead treat it as research. Discuss the issues in your play with friends, test your punchlines on someone at work and start frequent rows with your girlfriend just to see how she reacts. All of these things will make your writing (and probably yourself) more interesting to spend time with.

Of course, you’ll then have to find the time to channel all this real-life inspiration into your writing. This will precipitate more arguments with your girlfriend, giving you ever more material to draw from. Eventually she’ll get sick of the neglect and go out to meet her girlfriends and (rightfully) bitch about how inattentive you are, at which point you’re free to sit down and write to your heart’s content.

But the next day, when she’s slept off her hangover and she staggers downstairs bleary-eyed, you better make sure you at least did the washing up. Because relationships, just like writing, are all about the balance.

Have a question or problem you’d like to send in?  Email and keep your eyes peeled to see if the answer turns up on our site!

(DISCLAIMER: If you send us a question, you’re giving us permission to publish it!  Be sure to indicate what name you’d like us to use as a sign when we publish your column, and a just a heads up that we reserve the right to edit submissions for length if needed.)

Pursued By A Bear: “What writing tools does a savvy London playwright need?”

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.

Have a question or problem you’d like to send in?  Email and keep your eyes peeled to see if the answer turns up on our site!

(DISCLAIMER: If you send us a question, you’re giving us permission to publish it!  Be sure to indicate what name you’d like us to use as a sign when we publish your column, and a just a heads up that we reserve the right to edit submissions for length if needed.)