Alan Rickman inspires search for magical writing touch

I have always kind of wondered how I would make out as a fiction writer, even though I will adamantly deny – to anyone who asks – that I have any talent for creative writing whatsoever.

My wondering somehow led to a conscious desire, though, after I saw the Broadway play “Seminar” on Friday.

It was a deal I struck with my uncle, originally. He said he would take me into New York for a day if I brought my grandparents to his house in Kingston, N.Y., for Thanksgiving break.

Black Friday in the big city? Sign me up.

I soon cared much less about shopping and much more about seeing the play, though, once I heard that “Seminar” would be opening the weekend prior to the holiday.

I’m usually more of a musical type of girl, but there was no way I would pass up the opportunity to see Alan Rickman – one of my all-time favorite actors – on the Broadway stage.

So I snatched up some orchestra seats – left center, row D – for a small fortune and went on my merry way. I didn’t care to know what the play was actually going to be about until after I bought the tickets.

It’s a cast of only five characters – four students and their teacher, Leonard (Rickman) – and it is literally all about writing. Basically, the students are aspiring fiction writers, and they pay this supposedly world-renowned teacher to tear their work apart.

The students’ ultimate goal is to get something published in the New Yorker, but they run headfirst into mishaps and scandals along the way, all at the mercy of Leonard.

I honestly didn’t think I would love the play as much as I did, all thoughts of Rickman aside. I had read a review that said it was “instantly forgettable,” but, after seeing it, I couldn’t disagree more.

More than any feeling of star struckedness I felt in the presence of my favorite actor, I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging with the characters.

The things Leonard said about the students’ writing mimicked the sort of things I used to say about my own writing, before I just stopped trying to write fiction altogether.

The fictional scenario of the play provided some real encouragement for me.

I told myself I need to let go a little more and trust myself to put out some decent writing. I need to take my writing more seriously, and trust myself to revise all of the imperfections I find in the first draft.

Mostly, I need to learn to deal with my own criticism. My friends always say that I’m too harsh when I criticize others, but what they often don’t realize is that I’m just as bad – or even worse – on myself.

That, I now realize, is the only thing holding me back. No one is going to force me to show them what I’ve written – and the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect.

In reality, it doesn’t even have to be good. It just has to be a start.

That start – the boost I needed to start writing again – is what I got out of “Seminar.” It’s scary to think that someone as cruel as Leonard could actually exist, but it’s also scary to think that I could be hiding a career potential from myself because I’m scared.

If I can survive shopping in New York on Black Friday, I can surely survive reading my own first drafts.


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