What do you do?
I’ve made my living as an actor on stage and on television for the last nine years, but recently I’ve started to pursue some writing projects. I have written the book and lyrics for a new musical with the band Teen Commandments which is readying its premiere, as well as a pilot and a novel which are in process.
What does your work space look like? Where do you like to create?
Because I am so transitory with work commitments, I rarely have the luxury of a set space. However, as someone raised in the theater and the Catholic church who is now something of an amateur occultist, ritual is very important to me. Thus, I keep some small items with me so that I can create my space in any hotel room I find myself in- basically altar supplies like specific stones, incenses, and oils to great my creative energy flowing and to give me some sense of ritual in ever changing surroundings. It also makes the tools I use that much more important.
What role does the pencil play in your process?
I don’t think the pencil-as-magic-wand image is a new one, but it is definitely an apt one. Almost every magical system uses some kind of wand for magic, because the wand is a symbol for manifestation- it is the disembodied trunk of a tree which begins in the roots of your intention and grows to the fruits of your labor. The pencil, like a wand, is the bridge from my mind to the physical world of my script, or my draft.
Why do you choose to work with pencils and, specifically, Blackwings?
I think the pen or the laptop are the tools of very confident, very solitary writers, but pencils are the tool of collaborators; you are in the room, interpreting the ideas of everyone on the team, scribbling in the margins, making cuts, making changes, never married to anything. I learned about Blackwings from a video in which Stephen Sondheim sings their praises for lyric writing. I sought some out, hoping (here’s the ritual aspect again) that I might channel some of his genius by using the same tools, and now I’m hooked. When you are a freelance artist, it is hard to take yourself and your work seriously, but I find having proper tools helps in a big way.
What other tools are essential to your process?
I keep a kit of Blackwings, pens, highlighters, notebooks, and whatever script I’m working on in a genius little carry-all called the Mod from a company called This Is Ground. I reserve this stuff only for work so that as soon as I unzip the thing and break out the tools, my mind is in work/creative mode (back to ritual).
How do you overcome ______ block? Writer’s block, artist’s block, etc.
Sometimes with magical means, but usually just by focusing on producing quantity over quality. I learned from watching theater writers toil away at pieces I’ve acted in that even when you throw in band-aid revisions just to get through a preview performance, there is usually some idea worth keeping. Those ideas add up, piece-wise, until they form a better whole. I find that to be true of all writing- if you keep generating ideas without judging them or expecting to nail it the first time, you find kernels of what you’re after, and get a bit closer each time.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“The secret to life is the graceful execution of plan B.” Nothing ever goes exactly the way you expect it to. Some of the greatest developments in my career and personal life were absolutely accidental. I really think success lies not so much in how you act, but in how you react. Another reason to use a pencil!