Sunday, September 20, 2009

Inspiration and Creative Ferment

"Your vocation is that place where your deep joy meets the world's great hunger." --Frederick Buechner

In January, I started to write a musical play on aging, titled A New Wrinkle. Being a somewhat naive/optimistic (choose one or both) woman, I guessed I would be done writing by June and be ready to go into production by fall. Ha ha ha, the Universe laughed.

I have never written a play before and the process has been and continues to be a wonderful learning experience on many levels. It turns out that writing song lyrics was the easiest thing. I've written some rather funny songs including "I Passed for Young" sung by an aging Barbie, "Sex after Sixty," sung by the cast ensemble, "Baba Yaga's Raga" sung of course by Baba Yaga, whose unconfined magic figures large in the play, "What Should We Do with the Rest of Our Lives?" a song about retirement/refirement, "Scintillating Secrets of the Older Brain" which was inspired by Gene Cohen's book The Mature Mind--and right now, I am working on a song about how grandchildren would act towards elders in a culture that recognizes the value of older people. I also am musing about writing a song about medicine or doctors or the health care system. I've written one scalding song, "Hip Hop Elder's Rant" which covers ageism, dismissing and warehousing elders, etc. And there are two choral pieces, one at the beginning of the play and one at the end. These pieces are lyrical and a bit mythic. There are a couple of other song fragments, one about gerontophobia, and a fragment of an old blues song by Memphis Minnie. Musicals usually have from 20-30 songs, so A New Wrinkle is atypical in that way. I am not dismayed by that because the play doesn't have to fit into the existing mold.

Many days and weeks have been like feeling around in the dark, something I am familiar with, but it's still uncomfortable at times. Where am I? Where is this going? Is there anybody/anything out there, or in there? What wants to happen here? Can I do it? Sometimes it calls for letting go and lying on the couch to look at the sky for awhile. Daydreaming.

The Muse can arrive unannounced or at inconvenient times of course, especially when you're dealing with a character like Baba Yaga. There's a great talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love" on TED about the imagination and creativity. You might like it. I sure did.

It's impossible to imagine the process of developing "A New Wrinkle" without Helpful People. I've been blessed with Helpful People, like my old friend Carolyn Myers, an award-winning playwright and humorist who is part of an improvisational comedy troupe called the Hamazons. What a combination of diplomacy, profound support and deft insights she has given me. "And you're so close," she said during the last two sessions we had. Hilary Tate, a woman with well-honed literary and theatrical awareness, has also been of enormous help to me. Melanie Marx, a friend and life coach with a bouyant expression of love and chi, has helped me with reframing old habits that used to dog my creative life. And I feel the love and support of so many friends and acquaintances who tell me, "I can't wait to see it!"

Gaelyn Larrick introduced me to Laura Rich, who arranges music for Warner Brothers. Laura is a beautiful woman, sensitive in so many ways, loving, artistic, filled with humor--and she believes in what I am doing with A New Wrinkle. Keep her in your hearts as she recovers from surgery. Laura is composing the music for the play. I am going to her place tomorrow to talk more about that with her. Another aspect of the learning.

Developing characters and a plot line, what a concept. Yes. Big learning curve. Lots of fun. Eureka! Magical, how characters and plot emerge, as if they were just hiding around the edges of what was already created.

The experience of writing A New Wrinkle takes place in the midst of creating Sage's Play, the artistic venture of which this blog is a part. For Sage's Play, I am planning to write a little book to accompany A New Wrinkle, or be read on its own, and will also develop some formats for seminars and talks. I will be developing a website soon at

I am about to join a group called Artist Network Conference which provides a supportive structure for artists in terms of coaching, planning and development and artistic breakthroughs. ANC developed 25 years ago and has chapters in several places. The website is

For so many years, my creative life has felt rather isolated, and when I started to write A New Wrinkle, I began to pray that I would find a supportive creative community of other artists. ACN has appeared in answer to that prayer. I'll be attending a weekend orientation for ACN at the end of October and I am really looking forward to it.

P.S. Check out a site with many interesting audios and videos related to aging. There is one audio of Gene Cohen talking about creative aging, which I found enjoyable.

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