Vinay Patel detests meetings and is happier attending rehearsals, but nothing compares to the thrill of seeing his work performed live
It’s the meetings that kill you. No one warns you about the bloody meetings. Not because they’re bad – more often than not they aren’t, but they trick your brain into thinking you’re doing work when you’re not, not really.
And it can be fun. Sometimes, it takes all I can muster to prevent myself leaning across the table, grabbing my meetee by the hands and whispering, “Thank you for saving me from a life of isolation and giving me an excuse to put on my trousers.”
Instead, today, I treat them to a coffee-fuelled treatise about Why Television Drama Matters, which sounds noble but is basically an attempt to justify my existence to people who already want to give me a job. There’s plenty of twitching on both sides. It is all a bit much for a Monday morning.
Rehearsals for the first performance of a play I’ve written. It’s been a while since I’ve had a play on, and I have to remind myself that those initial theatre rehearsals are the opposite of TV meetings, in that the most useful thing you can do is to shut up.
You’ve got to let the director establish authority and the actors figure out solutions themselves – rehearsals are all about getting it wrong until it’s right. That doesn’t stop me squirming, though. Need to learn to squirm less.
Twitching and squirming aside, my one nod to physical activity is to turn up to Wednesday-night football for the team I helped found but hardly ever play for any more. Without me, they’ve won the league. Twice. Thus, my “activity” is constrained to giving the sidelines a good seeing to with my elaborate warm-up routine.
Our shirt names were all chosen by committee. I’ve got “Plath” on the back of mine, a nod to Sylvia, though people often assume I’ve misspelled “Platt” (as in David, the early-1990s England captain). Not sure which is the more hipster choice.
Revisions for a film I’m writing and my head is struggling with switching between three different media in three consecutive days. I can’t remember who said it, but the phrase “learning to write is learning to work” has never left me.
Though the past year or so has been brilliant, the jump in pace and the sheer number of words to be written has been a steep learning curve.
Ironically, part of becoming a full-time writer is training yourself to be less indulgent with your work. You can’t toss away entire weekends and evenings to it any more, you have to learn to be better, quicker and to force yourself to make time for the people who care about you.
The emotional demands of a script can be intense and, if you don’t keep yourself balanced, you’ll burn out again and again. Figuring out how to do that is my task for the year.
Performance of the play’s first scene as part of the reopening of the Bush Theatre. It’s also my birthday and, after the hamster-wheel of a week I’ve had with writing, there’s no better way to spend today than with an audience, watching the end product of all those all-nighters and reminding myself why I love what I do and that I’m lucky to do it.
On Saturday, I’ll celebrate my birthday properly, which means I’ll sit in the pub from open till close, watch England lose to Ireland in the Six Nations, spill beer on myself during said game and attempt to style it out.
But the biggest lesson of the week is that there’s no styling out a half pint of thick stout on a crisp, white shirt.
Vinay Patel is the writer of Murdered by My Father, winner in the Single Drama category at the RTS Programme Awards 2017.