Can you give us an insight into your creative process? How do you discover new ideas and get them down on paper?
I generally start with a question that intrigues me. It can come from anywhere – a conversation, an observation, a newspaper article – but it has to seem unanswerable. I then tease it out, burrow into it, filling a notebook with further questions and ideas about how it might be dramatised. I keep poking it and prodding it and tossing it around, examining it from all angles, looking for aspects of it in my lived experience, imagining what it would be at its greatest extreme, until characters, a story, and a world begin to emerge from the morass. Then I start writing.
Why do you think it’s important for writers to nurture their creativity?
I think it’s important for EVERYONE to nurture their creativity. I have been taking a break over Christmas and January after a very busy year – and after not writing for a month I’m starting to feel antsy and cranky. It doesn’t have to be the Great Australian Play or Novel you’re working on; doing edits can be nurturing – exercises are a wonderful balm. Writing (or painting, composing, etc) at once keeps you connected to your imagination, and to living in the here and now. Your eyes and ears are open, your mind is alert for the telling detail.
Even if you’re between projects, it’s important to keep the writing muscle working, so that when you’re ready for the next one you’ve stayed limber, the machine is well-oiled, your powers of observation and expression are sharp, and you can hit the ground running.
What do you love about playwriting?
What I love about playwriting is that it’s so much more than words on paper. As playwrights, we’re architects of a three-dimensional, living experience. We enlist such diverse elements as language, silence, physicality, time, rhythm, space, sound and visual imagery to reach hearts and minds, and to send people out of the theatre seeing the world in a new light. Collaboration being an inherent part of theatre, I love the fact that writing a play involves leaving space for, and in fact creating provocations for, actors, designers, director, composer and choreographer.
Hilary Bell’s plays have been produced nationally and internationally. A graduate of the Juilliard, AFTRS and NIDA, Hilary was the Tennessee Williams Fellow at the University of the South, and the Patrick White Fellow at the STC. She is the author of three children’s books: Numerical Street, The Marvellous Funambulist of Middle Harbour, and best-seller Alphabetical Sydney. She has taught playwriting over many years for such organisations as Griffin Theatre, PlayWriting Australia, New York University, Wesleyan University, and for Writing NSW. Read more about Hilary Bell’s plays here>>