WRITING YOUR SELF: The examined life Roselle Angwin explores the unconscious and turns your life into literature
At his trial for alleged ‘heresy’ – ‘corrupting’ youthful minds by teaching them how to think for themselves – Socrates famously said: ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ According to Socrates, two interconnected things made for a worthwhile life: exploring one’s place in the universe, and considering (and discussing) how to contribute meaningfully to the world.
Psychotherapy shows us that a willingness to examine your life on an inner level makes for a more fulfilling and happier life, on the whole. People who are willing to explore who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, despairs, fears and joys and where they belong in the universe, not only have an overall context for their lives but are better able to make sense of their lives, reflecting and readjusting as needed.
The personal journal is an invaluable tool for such life-exploration. ‘Just as the act of journal writing allows you to move fluidly within the present moment, the art of journal writing allows you to move fluidly within the overall context of your life, as recorded in your journals,’ according to journal therapist Kathleen Adams.
As I discussed in the last issue, there are measurable health benefits on all levels to be gained from using journaling techniques,
from improved immune function to improved relationships, from increased happiness to spiritual wellbeing. Journaling can also lead to greater awareness of self, others and the world as a whole. This activity is simple, free, easily available at any time and shows such profound and measurable results.
The journal, of course, is a dialogue with
the self. It’s also a tool for dialogue with the Self, the transcendent part of oneself; with sub-personalities; with others; and even with objects, aspects of and situations in one’s life. It’s very useful in bringing subjects, themes and patterns to the surface.
There are many ways of using the journal, and there are no limits, other than those of your imagination, on how to use it and what to include. While I wrote in issue 40 of some creative inclusions for journaling and provided general journaling guidelines in issue 42, I
want to say here that, basically, the journal is whatever you’d like it to be, and there is no ‘right way’ to do it.
Here’s a starting point: allow an hour. Unplug the phone, light a candle, open your journal, hold a pen, and sit with your eyes closed. Focus on your breath until your mind quietens, then open your eyes and record, without thinking, a sort of brief ‘weather report’ on how things are in your life right now. After a paragraph or two, close your eyes again and allow an image that represents this to arise in consciousness. Take your time. Note it down and close your eyes again. Respond in whatever way to this image – thoughts, feelings, questions, associations, memories, phrases, quotes, colours, shapes. Be truthful and don’t try too hard. Pour the words onto the paper, and then return to stillness until more responses arise, and so on. You might want to repeat this over several days or weeks and see how the image or your responses change.
CAUTION: These exercises can access memories and feelings that are challenging or painful. Before you start, do ensure you have supportive friends or family members to talk to if need be.
ROSELLE ANGWIN leads the Fire in the Head creative and reflective writing programme, and will be leading journaling workshops in Totnes this autumn.
References: At a Journal Workshop by Ira Progoff (Tarcher Putnam, 1975; 1992); Journal to the Self by Kathleen Adams (Grand Central, 1990); Writing Works, eds. Gillie Bolton, Victoria Field, Kate Thompson (JKP, 2006); Prompted to Write eds. Victoria Field and Zeeba Ansari (Fal, 2007).
Scripts for Radio / Six: Putting it all together
by Margaret Wilkinson
A series of six articles on the art and practicalities of writing for radio.
You now have many of the tools you need to create full-length scripts for radio. In general, when writing drama, it’s best to think more in terms of character, less in terms of plot. Simplify the plot and complicate the characters. Build intensity rather than plot lines. How? With desires (objectives), and obstacles. Use events primarily to build pressure on your central character. >> Decide on a central character. Give this character a single strong objective. Then choose an antagonist. This is a character who opposes, in
some way, the central character’s desire. (Antagonists are not evil. They just challenge or obstruct the protagonist, sometimes for the protagonist’s own good.) >> Act One might explore what the central character wants – and why. Act Two might explore the obstacles, conflicts and complications that arise out of – and frustrate – the central character’s objectives. Act Three is the outcome, the fulfilment or failure in achieving these objectives. >> Try not to forget that on the radio anything is possible. Here, for example, are some descriptions of the Afternoon Play and the Saturday Play taken from The Radio Times:
The Midnight House: A period ghost story set in the Welsh quarries that housed the nation’s art treasures during WWII. Cold in the Earth and 15 Wild Decembers: A compelling drama about Emily Brontë’s socially transgressing love affair with a weaver’s son. Darkness: After a breakdown brought about by a tour of duty in Iraq, a surgeon takes up research into the effects of sensory deprivation, then learns he is about to lose his own eyesight and volunteers for a dangerous experiment. Write your own scene, not constrained by setting, time, place, or character, using any of the following ideas:
>> A 19th Century spinster with a passionate but repressed nature is rather too fond of her romantic poet brother. On the eve of his marriage, she gathers gooseberries with her soon-to-be sister-in-law. She wants to prevent the marriage. Her soon-to-be sister-in-law wants to get home to prepare for her wedding. >> A schoolgirl living in 1932 Moscow during Stalin’s reign of terror, returns emptyhanded from the shops where she has been sent in the snow to buy bread. She finds a strange man on her doorstep who claims to be her father. He has been released from a prison camp, but is so changed she doesn’t
recognise him. He wants to enter the flat; she wants to keep him out. >> A young couple have bought a London flat, but soon after moving in, the woman is convinced that the ghost of a former tenant is present. While the man lovingly sands the skirting boards, she tries to convince him that they should find somewhere else to live. Can you expand this crucial scene into a full-length radio play by generating other scenes? >> You can find out more about the length of various radio dramas commissioned to fill particular slots, and the exact way to set out a radio script, by going to BBC.co.uk. writersroom/ScriptSmart.
28 | Mslexia.co.uk | Oct / Nov / Dec 09