On this episode of A Day in the Life we meet 2009 graduate Amina McIntyre, a playwright from Atlanta, GA. Amina gives us some great insight into her day-to-day life as well as plenty of advice on being more productive and overcoming writer’s block. If you’d like to be featured email me, my address is below.
When did you graduate? Nov 2009
What genre do you write? Playwriting
Where do you live? Atlanta, GA
What are your favorite books? (Today) Khalil Jibran’s The Prophet, Pearl Cleage’s Bourbon at the Border, Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, and Nayyirah Waheed’s Nejma.
Do you hold a full-time job other than writing? A part-time
What do you do? I’m a minister developing Specialized Ministries specifically Arts and Drama in my district. I also am President of the Connectional Young Adult Ministry for my denomination, which has me traveling quite a bit.
What part of writing do you like the most? Writing is freeing. Writing is the one place you can be authentic and reflect your truth, if we dare. I recently started to value this genuine vulnerability by writing plays inspired by experiences I’ve had – which is funny because when I was at Spalding, Charlie Schulmann told me I needed to do it. It has allowed me to be more bold and confident with the characters, plot and overall play trajectory.
Do you work with an outline or just wing it? A mixture of both. When I start, I like to purge – it maybe outlined or it could be in my head, but I’ll write until I get stuck or until the thin structure of the play is worked out. Recently, I started revising the way I write a sermon, researching first, exegeting (interpreting the text the way it was intended to be heard), main points, big celebratory ended. It’s lead me to have a system where I plot out every scene with index cards and stick them up on a project board. I make myself ask the basic questions (why today, why does a character want, obstacles, secret desires, if they get it) and any other specific things that matter to the life of the story. Spending time with the board before revision, I’ve found, really helps me clarify any overlooked questions and discoveries.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? Yes…too many times. When Uncle WB comes to visit, I bring out the words from something else and just start typing. Sometimes I just put a timer on (15 minutes, 30 minutes or 1 hour – the shorter increments work better), which seriously tricks my mind into gear and helps me get out the prolonged conversations with myself. This is really good for pending deadlines when I’m stuck on a project. I also cruise the internet for stories, especially news posts from friends on Facebook, often gives me ideas to put in my Play Idea box (basically a box of index cards with play ideas I can come back to later).
Do you listen to music while writing- if so, what kind? Sometimes I make a playlist for the play. Sometimes it has to be silent. Depends on which play I’m working on.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Read, watch plays, watch movies/TV shows, especially ones I think have great writing. I also like to do something completely out of my comfort zone
Can you tell us about an upcoming project? I’m currently shopping around my play, That What Buried, about three African American sisters who live in Paris in the 1950s. It’s a wonderfully interesting time because it is post WWII and the glory days of the Black Renaissances and at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in the US. I’m exploring the paradigm of choosing to or choosing not to fight for a country that doesn’t love you. Moreover, what are the true ramifications of one deciding to say, “F*ck it, I ain’t helping.”
I’m also developing Artz and Biz, which will encourage artists to embrace the business behind the arts and ways they can work to make a living within their crafts.
Where can we find your work? In smaller theatres, for now. I have some excerpts of plays on the National New Play Exchange and soon on my website, http://www.ladylovesherpen.com.
What does your daily schedule look like?
Depends on the day of the week and whether or not I have to travel. But the best days are when I wake up around 7am to exercise/shower, 8 – 10 small breakfast and writing (this is a play or other creative writing, but this is only my work). If I don’t have to go out for a meeting/event, I’ll wear yoga pants and a tee-shirt (I like to be super comfortable when I write) and I’ll typically get back in the bed. If I have to go out, I’ll get dressed and write at my desk. Around 10am, I’ll check emails and catch up on any ministry requests for the day. Lunch at 12. If I procrastinate, it’s always after lunch. I procrastinate by getting the mail, “cleaning up” (which mostly consists of getting rid of extra paper I’ve accumulated that week), or personal phone calls. The key to limiting this is using that timer I mentioned early 2pm – 5pm Writing (mostly for others), meetings, or calls. If I’m home on a Friday, I submit. 5pm-6pm may be extra writing/call time or a nap depending on what’s happening. I will definitely take a nap if I have to watch a play that night (or I will fall asleep in the first act). 6pm-7pm Dinner. Evening: either a play, event or conference calls (church conference calls are mostly in the evening).
What advice would you give someone looking for a more productive routine?
Be warm with yourself. I create my list at the beginning of the week and try to accomplish things in this schedule. If it doesn’t work out perfectly, I may have to alter my hours. The biggest thing is to take an hour or two out at some point during the day (even if it’s super early in the morning or 15 minute increments spread out through the day). Also, set the specific intention of what you want to accomplish. I have to set my list very early in the week so I can stay on task, otherwise, my energy will be spent on things that pop up.
I’m looking for contributors for the following posts:
DEAR SOARING!: Send me your questions to be featured on the blog. Other alumni will help in answering your questions.
Where in the World: Where have you gone recently? Send me a picture with information on your trip and any writing you may have done about the trip.
Awards and Accolades of Alumni: Time to brag! What have you accomplished recently? I want to help spread the word and show just how great our alumni really are.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured.
Mackenzie Jervis is a Summer 2016 Graduate. She lives in Texas with her husband, two cats, and puppy. She has way too many books, more cameras than she knows how to properly use, and a never ending need to keep moving. She write about her life and adventures at home and around the world at A Wandering Scribbler.