April 3, 2015 by Sian Rowland
In a recent YouGov poll 60% of Brits choose ‘author’ as their dream job. Writers often say that the image of tapping away at a vintage typewriter in a cottage by the sea or scribbling in a notebook in a café while sipping frothy coffee is the Instagram version of reality. The truth is that although writing is a creatively satisfying career it’s a job like any other and self-employed writers experience the same concerns, highs and lows as any other freelancer.
I was lucky enough to meet scriptwriter and playwright DC Moore recently when my monologue was selected for performance at Sydenham Arts Festival and I was interested in his experience as a full-time writer. A graduate of the Royal Court Young Writers programme, Moore has gone on to write for the Royal Court and The National among others. His new sitcom Not Safe For Work is about a civil servant (Fresh Meat’s Zawe Ashton) and her team who have to relocate due to government cuts. How could I resist? NSFW comes to Channel Four this year.
I asked Dave if he’d share some of his insights into his writing life:
What are you working on at the moment?
A few things. Trying to finish a commission for the National, write a first episode of a crime drama for TV and also get some film projects in motion. Generally, there are three stages of writing: Hustling (trying to get projects off the ground), Grafting (writing the bloody things) and Production (when the thing is being made and everything goes completely nuts). I’m just Hustling and Grafting at the moment.
How do you begin the creative process- do you start with a stimulus such as a conversation, a picture or a news item?
For me, there’s a lot of initial trawling. That might be a particular historical period or, for example, a particular area of science. Or just following ideas that have cropped up in your day to day life. It usually involves a lot of reading and watching and talking to people. And then it’s down to the Gods as to whether I find a moment of truth amidst all that, that I can then build an idea/world around. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But the lucky thing is that even if nothing comes of it initially, usually the work you’ve done can come in handy much later down the line. So I keep my notes on each project, so that I can always pick up the work I’ve already done on it without too much hassle.
When writing something new do you polish as you go along or do an initial ‘vomit draft’?
I don’t usually write quickly enough for ‘quick vomit’ drafts, unless there’s an incredibly pressing deadline. So it’s a slow vomit and I polish as I go along and then do a lot more cleaning later on once I’m finished. Unless you’re touched by genius (I’m not, unfortunately) writing is re-writing.
As the writer, what is the difference in creative control/ input between theatre and television?
Totally depends between projects. Generally, a director has more control of television than in theatre and, writers have more control of theatre than in television. That’s because of the inherent nature of the mediums, I think. But within that, the way you’re treated can vary from theatre to theatre and television channel to television channel. So each project will be completely different. Particularly as you tend to get more and more control as you get more experience/success in a medium.
Your monologue ‘Honest’ has gone down really well with audiences and reviewers. Is the monologue coming back into vogue?
Not sure. I think some people are sniffy about them, but I also think that’s because they’re often done quite badly. For me, it’s a wonderful opportunity to talk directly to an audience. That’s rare and should be cherished.
What are the best and worst things about working for yourself?
Instilling your own discipline is both the major advantage and major disadvantage of this job. The lack of structure can be brilliantly freeing or maddeningly maddening.
What is the difference between writing for pleasure or as a hobby and writing as a job?
It heightens both the lows and highs. It can make you less pure as a writer, unless you have either independent resources or incredible will-power. But it also means you can throw more at each project in some ways. So it’s a mixed blessing. The best thing is that it means you don’t have to do the daily commute across London.
Everyone has their favourite place to write- what’s yours?
Either at home or in a rehearsal room, about two or three weeks into production of a play. There’s a purity to the latter, as it happens so rarely (that you’re writing in the same space the play will get performed/tested).
Lots to think about there. Thank you Dave and I’m really looking forward for the first episode of NSFW!