By A-lan Holt, member of the 2013 Emerging Writers Group
This April I spent three days in the Indio valley just north of Los Angeles. I was there outside of New York and back inside my California for the first time in months, and it felt like the kind of warmth that familiarity brings. Three days living in the bottom of a valley with a handful of close friends calling me by nickname, all of us reveling in the music above and the laughter left floating. All of us hugging what magic we could take with two hands and living untamed with the aggravated belly of desert air. Yes, what a migrant and mellifluous people I found dancing at this festival. What a utopia of lights and night sky. Oh, what 360 degrees of mountains (and not buildings), sand (as opposed to concrete), and people (all kinds of people) can do for one's spirit, can do for one's work, and all this, just in time for spring.
The poet, Saul Williams once told me that the best cure for writer's block is breaking routine. After a winter of daily wrestling with this new play, begging loose pages to become something coherent, I am now fully embracing the feeling of things dislodged. The first being me from my computer. I am finding more ways to untangle myself from this screen that I stare into daily. I am turning off my phone often, and finding something familiar about myself in this silence. I am also trying to connect more with people. When I say connect I am talking about the kind of contact that requires touch, the inefficient kind of face to face interaction and full, singular attention that I almost forgot about somewhere amidst my productivity. I am trying to slow, things, down, for sure. And surely I did not know how much I needed this change of pace until I was wading, body deep, into this new world for three days. I did not fully realize how easily bodies adapt to the rhythms of a place, until I was taken outside of this new city, this New York, that I have come to call my home.
Similarly, stepping outside of the world of this play for a moment helped to give me a better understanding of my relationship to the work; a perspective I have found to be crucial. These days, I am learning that the work won't come from the writing alone. It manifests itself in the places I frequent; be it this desert, or Los Angeles, or my small bedroom in Brooklyn, or in the stories of a close friend, whom after months of travel has gracefully found her way home. These small connections, I am finding, are the things my plays are made of. What a blessing it has been to return with new eyes. What a curious and welcomed perspective I have found in this space.
A-lan is currently developing a new piece entitled THE BOTTOM, a play re- inspired by her recent trip to the desert; a play about a boy living in a world of his own design.
This post is part of a weekly series from the Emerging Writers Group community of playwrights. The EWG is two-year playwriting fellowship at The Public Theater seeking to target playwrights at the earliest stages of their careers. In so doing, The Public hopes to create an artistic home for a diverse and exceptionally talented group of up-and-coming playwrights.