An insight into the life of a
playwright from Morna Young.
I'm surrounded by post-it notes, spider-graphs and textbooks.
I've always been a stationery kleptomaniac but this is truly
indulgent. My work space looks like a more colourful CSI: 'who',
'what', 'where', 'why', 'when' scrawled across papered walls and
linked by thick red lines. I'm pleased to say that the mystery has
been solved and I have a first draft new play.
I'm taking part in my first full length residency at CAMAC Art
Centre inFrance. Situated an hour outside Paris, CAMAC brings
together international cross discipline artists and provides time
and space for creation. It's been a blessing to research and write
The peace and quiet also allows plenty of time for reflection.
Recently, the Playwrights' Studio asked me to write a "year in the
life of" blog and, thus, this seemed like the ideal opportunity to
look back. Coincidently, the play I'm writing is about memory
recall. It feels apt to test my own…
My playwriting journey began in 2012. This was the year that I
abandoned myLondonlife and moved back to my home village to write a
play about the Scottish fishing industry. It was one of those life
changing moments where I ignored logic and embraced blind faith.
There were many personal reasons for making this decision but there
were also a number of obstacles. Namely, I had no savings and had
never written a play.
I couldn't write this blog without mentioning Lost at Sea. When I think of my
journey so far, it all stems from that one extreme decision. It was
a tough time but I don't regret if for a second.
Fast forward to 2014. It started with a high when I won a
Playwrights' Studio New Playwrights Award. The New Playwrights
Award is like the ultimate playwriting goodie bag: a grant, a
residency atCovePark, workshops, mentoring sessions and script
development. In short, it's bloody brilliant. For my New
Playwrights Award I developed a play calledNetting. In February
this year, Netting featured
as part of a Play, a Pie and a Pint at Oran Mor and The Lemon Tree.
It felt like the perfect conclusion.
However, writing Netting
was only one part of the journey. In the past year, I was
commissioned by and wrote a play called Never Land for Eden Court's
development programme which toured Scotland in the autumn. I
presented a short piece as part of the National Theatre of
Scotland's The Great Yes, No, Don't
Know Five Minute Theatre Show. I took part in Magnetic
North's wonderful Rough Mix residency. I read my work at the
Scottish Parliament. I was a finalist for the Adopt a Playwright
Award. I developed a songwriting programme for inmates at HMP
Inverness. I toured in Sunset
Song (Sell A Door, Beacon Arts) for three months. And I
recorded the Fishwives new album Ocean Bound!
It was also a year of travel. I was on the road so often that I
was tempted to write my car registration as my address. From
Inverness toEdinburgh,Greenockto Skye and further afield. I read
extracts of Lost at Sea at
the European Authors' Festival inCzech Republic,SlovakiaandPoland.
I spent 6 weeks creative time inParis, writing and watching
theatre, through Creative Scotland's Professional Development
Award. And, now, CAMAC.
In addition to playwriting, I continued to explore my
theatre-making abilities. In January, I developed a project called
Heroines with AJ Taudevin,
Belle Jones and Catrin Evans. It's an exploration of strong female
characters and the theories echo throughout much of my work. I have
no interest in writing 'powerful' woman. I don't seek to impose
traditional 'masculine' qualities on female characters. I want to
write actual, complex women - they are strong because they are
weak. They're fallible. They're real. To collaborate on this
project with female artists that I admire and respect (and, indeed,
consider to be 'strong female characters') has been a joy.
It's difficult to write a blog like this without stepping into,
'look how wonderful this all sounds,' territory. Yes, there
have been incredible moments and I cannot begin to say how thankful
I am for these. But there have also been difficult times that are
harder to talk about. The highs and lows often go hand in hand. I
received a great review and a not-so-kind one. I met inspiring,
incredible people but I also experienced sexism. I had carefree
productions and chaotic ones. I've worked hard and applied for
dozens of opportunities. I won some and lost more.
Lest we forget, writing can also be mentally exhausting. I
continually question myself. I suffer bouts of anxiety where I
disregard everything I write. I convince myself that no-one wants
to read the work of a fishing lass from up north. I worry about the
future and finances. I lose sleep over narratives. Moreover, it's a
fear-inducing nightmare to spend months bleeding out words for
someone to say, "naw, don't like it." I've considered walking
away from this industry more than once.
Inevitably, these setbacks and doubts have made me a better
writer. My failures have forced me to think harder about what I
want. They've shaped who I am and what I want to create. They've
made me more determined. We're fortunate inScotlandthat our
industry is full of lovely, helpful people. When I look back at the
hairy moments, I see the faces of several practitioners who have
mentored and encouraged me through them: not least, Muriel Romanes,
Peter Arnott, Clare Duffy, Linda McLean, Tina McGeever, Ian Brown
and, of course, the wonderful Playwrights' Studio team.
The Playwrights' Studio have played a crucial role in my
development and career. Having been a part of the mentoring scheme
and the New Playwrights Awards, I feel like a graduate of a very
special school. (Can I get a certificate, please?).
They've supported me from the very first draft of Lost at Sea. They're a fabulous
organisation andScotlandshould be proud of this unique
I still stutter when I tell people that I'm a playwright.
There's a hesitance in my voice; fraud syndrome, perhaps, or
disbelief. Me? A playwright? How on earth did that happen? I'm
working on it. I'm discovering my voice, my interests, my habits. I
know I'm a slow planner but a fast writer. I tend to overuse the
word, "just." Doric is my natural writing voice but not necessarily
my character's. I have a folder on my desktop called 'Work in
Progress.' In it, there are 34 plays that I have started. They're
baking. Some of them, I will fully draft. Others will remain there
for a lifetime. There are so many stories that I want to tell
and an endless amount of subjects that interest me. I want to write
a libretto. I want to work more with verbatim text. I want to
challenge gender imbalance. I'm an obsessive workaholic.
Thankfully, I have very nice friends who drag me out of the house
In a few days time, I'll return home to Scotland. I'll start
developing my next project exploring multi-disciplinary artistry
with a cracking team of performers. I'll redraft the new play and
plan the next one. I'll drink a lot of coffee, read plays, probably
watch some Doctor Who and
think about 'what next'.
It's been a year of extreme learning. A time of growth,
discovery, travel and challenges. I have no idea what the next year
will bring but right now, looking out of my window here in
ruralFrance, I feel like things will be okay. I'm enjoying the ride
and that, surely, is the best feeling in the world. For playwriting
is, indeed, a journey and I'm only at the beginning of
Morna Young will be delivering a workshop with
Catriona Lexy Campbell at Talkfest at the Tron 2015 on Saturday
25th April at 2.30pm.