Entries in Colleen Murphy (1)


The Reluctant Artiste: Plot Twist!


Writers don’t get depressed. We get material. 
(Thanks anyway Dr. Seligman)
Happiness is making the rounds on the chat-o-sphere this week. After a few decades of natural source, high fibre irony, the pursuit of happiness may well be this year’s urban chicken-keeping. The message is, seek out things to be grateful for, reflect on what went right each day, and above all, challenge your notions of helplessness in unhappy situations—because it’s lack of agency that’s making ya’ feel crazy. 
I have another approach. I don’t seek out things to be grateful for—I horde them— along with the stuff I am so NOT grateful for, and the stuff that went TOTALLY WRONG—and I challenge my notions of helplessness and agency the way a dominatrix challenges a submissive’s backside—because I am a writer, my friends—and happiness and sorrow are not states of mind. They’re the pantry of my literary kitchen. 
(I realize that I’ve just put a cooking metaphor in the same paragraph as an S&M metaphor, and this puts us into some slightly yucky territory, but so does writing.) 
Have you ever seen a play by Colleen Murphy? Erin Shields? I know both of them, and I must say that they are each perfectly capable of happiness of the glowy sun filtered through the geometrically so-perfect- there-must-be-some-kind-of-intelligence-behind-creation tree branches sort of way. But their plays? They are freakin’ furious. Raging sad. Screaming for some kind of redress…so they’re like…really good. 
I honest to god don’t think I have much to say unless I can get to the coal-hot tar stuff at the bottom of my well and at least mix it in—not because I write a lot of melodrama. I almost never do—would be ashamed to serve the subjects of my rage so tritely—with easy tears and howling. No, pilgrims--I write comedy. So—like almost every other comic you’ve heard lob a well-shaped zinger into a crowd and watched the laughter shrapnel scatter—I am such a dark and angry person, that if I weren’t a writer, I’d be Number 1 with a bullet on the Neighborhood Watch list (“if you see the angry lady who talks to herself, Brianna, just cross to the other side of the street and find an adult you trust”).
Well maybe not that bad. But lord, it wouldn’t be good. 
Like I said, I don’t just run on brimstone and bile. I have a hybrid battery of grateful and good that I switch over to—and if, when those bits of happy mix with the fuming tar, they survive—they don’t instantly burn off in a puff of toasted Tinkerbell smoke—then they're worth something. They're material. 
So c’mon—hit me with your best plot twist. I need something new for the second act….