Stephen Potts on how he combines careers in medicine and writing
A few years ago I stood at a crossroads, uncertain which way to go. Should I quit the day job and throw myself into writing full-time, or continue trying to combine the two? I wrote about the decision in this magazine, and many readers offered advice. As so often, events – two young children – took over and made my decision for me. I could inflict the financial uncertainties of a full-time writer’s life upon myself, but not upon my family. So I carried on, and now find myself invited by the editor to offer views on the day job question.
I read somewhere that only 15% of published writers earn a living from their writing. So nearly all of us need a day job, raising questions about how we regard it; how it relates to the writing; how we assign our time and energies between day job and our writing projects; and how we shut off from one when engaged in the other.
My day job is in medicine. I’m a psychiatrist in a busy general hospital, seeing people in A&E, the medical and surgical wards, and the transplant unit. Medicine is a notoriously hard task master, and I bemoaned its ‘all or nothing’ nature in my earlier article. I’ve worked part-time for most of the past 16 years, though currently part-time means 36 hours a week plus one weekend in four on call. This is far too much like full-time work for me, but if I am to do less, someone else has to do more, and that’s not been an option for some time, though I live in hope.
There is one day a week when I am not in the hospital. I try to be ruthless in protecting my writing Wednesdays, though I do still get calls. I suppress irritation about them, aware that writers’ day jobs are often resented. In the extreme (and I am not here talking about my own job) they leech upon our time, our energies, our enthusiasms, perhaps our creative sparks: and we endure them only for the income they bring, for they offer nothing reciprocal in the way of new perspectives, new insights or new skills to carry into our writing lives. If it is hard for a non-writer to get up each day and drag her weary frame into a dreary workplace, then – perhaps – how much harder for a writer who wants to break free, who scribbles and taps away in stolen moments, and dreams nightly of the Big Break which will allow her to walk into the boss’s office with a smirk and tell him where to put his P45. But if the Big Break doesn’t come, going to work each day with that extra burden of desperate hope will eventually become intolerable.
The American-born playwright Olwen Wymark, who spent much of her working life in England and was a long-standing member of the Writers' Guild, has died.
Her plays include Find Me, Gymnasium, Loved, Best Friends and Strike Up The Banns. Olwen also wrote for extensively for radio and television.
Olwen was Chair of the Writers' Guild Theatre Committee for many years.
Olivia Hetreed is the new President of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, following a vote at the Guild's AGM
Olivia, best known for scripting the hugely successful film Girl With A Pearl Earring, has served for several years as Chair of the Guild's Film Committee and a member of our Executive Council. Olivia started her career as a documentary, drama and film editor and moved into writing with a series of family films for ITV including The Treasure Seekers and The Canterville Ghost. Other credits include the award-winning Man of Law’s Tale for the BBC and the feature film Wuthering Heights, released in 2011. She is currently in development with Philip and Liz, the love story of the young Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth. Olivia’s unopposed election as President was announced at today’s Guild Annual General Meeting. She takes over from the eminent playwright David Edgar, who has been our distinguished President for the past six years.
Christos Callow Jr. introduces a call for papers for a conference on science fiction theatre
Stage The Future will be, to my knowledge, the first academic conference on science fiction theatre. The idea for such an event came last year when I realised that science fiction and theatre can produce fascinating results when combined.
The first thing to do was to decide where a conference should happen and with whom I would organise it. There are almost no academics researching this subject, but there’s another PhD student – and fellow SF playwright – Susan Gray, who’s researching SF Theatre for her PhD. I wrote to her and I’m happy to say she accepted, so we started planning the conference.
But just what is SF Theatre exactly?
Science fiction theatre could be the answer to how – and why – theatre would survive the modern digital age; it could also attract an important part of the young generation, namely the geeks, to theatres where they’d get much more than the big budget visual effects of Hollywood.
As a genre, science fiction theatre can contribute to both science fiction and theatre, offering new insights, new ways of exploring the relationship between humanity and technology and, of course, new challenges for theatre-makers. Indeed, this could well be the theatre of the future.
Dinah Rose QC (author of the BBC's Respect at Work Review) will be part of the panel at an event staged by the union BECTU on Tuesday 18th June called Britain’s Got Bullies: Bullying in The Creative Sector.
The session will be chaired by Lisa Campbell, Broadcast editor. Other contributors will include Graham Russell (Change Associates), Donna Taberer (BBC), Anne-Marie Quigg (author of Bullying in the Arts) and Rebecca Peyton (actor and playwright) and sister to the former BBC journalist Kate Peyton who was killed in Somalia in 2005.
This is part of a larger event, the BECTU Freelance Fair , which has sessions covering professional development and networking for film and TV workers people.
There is a booking fee of £10.00 to attend any of the sessions including Britain’s Got Bullies for those who are not BECTU members.
Full details: http://www.bectu.org.uk/news/1937
Paul Goetzee reflects on his recent trip to the Cannes Film Festival with the Maison des Scénaristes
Are you a scénariste? Or are you an auteur?
In France apparently all screenwriters are expected to be auteurs. A legacy of the anti-literary La Nouvelle Vague, Les Cahiers du Cinéma, Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer and all, no doubt. There is no such thing as a writer in film, only an auteur, which my French dictionary defines as ‘author, creator... perpetrator’ – the last one probably very apt in a lot of film-making.
However, as far as Sarah Gurévick and Nicolas Zappi, founders of the Maison des Scénaristes (the House of Screenwriters) are concerned, writers should not have to be burdened with the obligation to direct. They are screenwriters, not auteurs, creators nor indeed perpetrators.
This may sound odd to English ears. I don’t know about you, but as a screenwriter I feel I’m constantly being nagged to ‘write visually’, ‘think like a director’ and so on. In France this is a given. You think up your story, plan your film... then get behind the camera and make it.
I have to admit I do like directing as well as writing. Whether I am any good at it is another matter. I like planning the whole project from the back of the envelope to the back of beyond. I like working with actors. I like designing sets and costumes, drawing up shooting scripts and storyboards. But a lot of writers I know don’t care about directing – whether it’s a play, a film or anything else. That’s someone else’s job. Someone with more energy, skill and, well, hubris. Writers are there to come up with a good story, then tussle with and defeat all the little narrative gremlins of plot, structure and character motivation that almost always – no, always – rear their beastly little heads.
So what exactly is Maison des Scénaristes (MdS) and how did I come to take part in their event in Cannes?