Interview With The Writers

We presented three of the plays developed in our workshops at the Kreuzberger HoffestSpiele last September in Theatre Expedition Metropolis. We read these plays months before the festival and talked with the writers for feedback. The playwright needs to hear the text they’ve written and see how people react to it so they can make the necessary changes.

Semi-stage these plays at the HoffFestSpiele was a completely different experience than doing it between us on a Zoom screen. We wanted to know how the playwrights felt and learn more about their creative process.

Eleanor Healing

How does it feel to have your play performed in front of an audience?

I live in Scotland, so sadly I was unable to come and watch the showcase, but I can’t tell you how happy I was knowing that Neurons was going to be staged, and by such an amazing team of creatives too! It was a story drawn from personal experience, and it always feels a bit raw and vulnerable putting that to paper, even more so knowing that it will be performed in front of a crowd. I know that the play was in very safe hands, however, and I can’t wait to see the recording.

Neurons by Eleanor Healing. Photo: André Groth

How did you start writing?

I’ve been writing ever since I was able to! Even before I could physically write, I was that child who was always in their little world, making up stories and daydreaming. I still have a folder full of stories I ‘wrote’ when I was around 4 years old. My dad would sit at the family computer while I rambled and he would type out my stories verbatim. They’re hilarious to read now because they’re so random (‘Misty the horse finds some spiders’ is perhaps my favourite, it’s a wild ride from start to finish). The first story I wrote myself was about me and my classmates having a hilariously disastrous trip to the beach. I made a little book, illustrated it, then read it out in front of my class! 

Ever since then, writing has been my escape, a way to express myself, my lifeline. Throughout my life, it’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. 

How about Neurons? Why Neurons?

I think a lot of people had revelations during the pandemic. Mine was realising that I was on the autism spectrum, which is quite a big revelation! I had suspected it for a long time, but never thought I could be because I don’t fit the stereotypical image we see of ASD in the media. It was only when I read about the experiences of other autistic women, and how women, girls and non-binary people display different traits, that the penny dropped. 

Unfortunately, with that came my experiences of the clinical bias that exists when it comes to seeking an ASD diagnosis as an adult woman. Here in Scotland, you don’t see a clinician in person for the first stage of the assessment, instead, they send you a form in the post with very specific and leading questions about your childhood. I was told that I ‘didn’t meet the diagnostic criteria’ essentially because I was affectionate, had the ability to make friends, and wasn’t a danger to myself as a child. The alternative is seeking a private assessment where you are seen in person, but that costs thousands of pounds which is completely inaccessible to most people (myself included).

But as well as that frustration, there was also a lot of joy and freedom that came with discovering this about myself. Parts of me that I had always been ashamed of and told to change suddenly didn’t feel so shameful. There was a lot of sadness too, knowing that I had ‘masked’ most of my life just to try and be seen as ‘normal’ and just how early that had started, and how that had likely contributed to the mental health problems I’ve experienced throughout my life. What was great though, was realising that the close friends I’ve made over the years were people I’d let the mask slip around, who saw my quirks and oddities as positives. That was bloody wonderful. 

So essentially I poured my frustrations and experiences into Neurons, hoping to give my perspective with a bit of humour thrown in. It started as a monologue, but then I thought it would be sweet to include a date setting in there too. It started as a way to process the journey I was going on, then evolved!

What is your writing process like?

Being a constant daydreamer, my writing inspiration normally comes from being in my own little world and suddenly having the urge to put an idea on paper. I normally stick on my noise-cancelling headphones, get lost in my daydream, and write away. I normally need to set an alarm though, otherwise, I get so engrossed that I won’t stop and suddenly it’s four hours later and I haven’t made dinner!

How did being part of WriteNow Berlin affected your writing?

WriteNow Berlin has changed my life really! That sounds corny but it’s true. I have you to thank for putting on my play Ghost during lockdown (all made over Zoom due to Covid restrictions), and for staging Neurons at HofFestSpiele this year. On top of that, the writing workshops have been so valuable to me as a writer for developing my skills.

It’s so amazing to be a part of a community like this, and I’m very grateful that the workshops have been remote so that I can attend from Scotland! Even if you’re stuck or having writer’s block, being able to do these workshops with a supportive community of fellow writers helps. It’s great to read and share other people’s writing and give feedback too. 

Are you working on a new play at the moment? 

I completed a full-length play back in July that I’m very excited about! It’s an offbeat love story with a vintage setting that I’m submitting to competitions and theatres. Otherwise, I’m keen to develop Neurons further – I already have some ideas for making it longer and bringing in more characters so I can’t wait to make that a reality.

Any tips for people starting to write? 

I would say write about your experiences, what you’re passionate about, write down the stories you want to see. Also, bear in mind that first drafts don’t have to be perfect, or even good – I have some horrible first drafts saved onto my computer, including a very cringey screenplay I wrote when I was 18 that will never see the light of day! Getting down your thoughts and having a work-in-progress is an important first step, and even if you don’t come back to it, it’s been a good outlet and good practice. Most importantly, write for you. Even if you don’t want to show your work to anybody, you’ve still done something awesome for yourself and have expressed yourself in some way.

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