The impact of initiatives such as Mental Health Awareness week can be difficult to articulate. Looking beyond the heightened press coverage, and the publication of reports from significant bodies, what does it mean to be aware about mental health? And what is the usefulness of awareness? What do you do with it?
It’s our hope that Scribble might be in some way a positive contribution to a wider cultural shift in attitudes towards how people understand their own and other people’s mental health. That’s the hope anyway. That’s one way in which we would like audiences to engage with Scribble - raising awareness.
This piece of work is also a part of my artistic practice. That’s something I do most days, a process of research that’s been working towards different interests for a while now. Mental health crops up from time to time, as an interest, but then so do things like linguistics, dramaturgy and crisps. Writing in the midst of this week, it’s this wider practice that comes in to focus, that seems worth reflecting on. I suppose the question – if there is a question – which I’m rolling around my brain, sounds something like
What is a mentally aware artistic practice?
Scribble started out under the mentorship of Playwrights’ Studio Scotland. I would meet up with Rob Drummond on a monthly basis and we would chat. In between these sessions I would write like I’d always write, hunched over a desk, alone, ramming Sensations into my gob. The work was good (as in good for my research) but the method wasn’t. During this period I write about thirty drafts of Scribble. The work gets very heavy; I become quite isolated, obsessively coming back to the laptop night after night. Eventually the work ends up at the Traverse as part of their Hothouse showcase. Draft forty-nine. Writing writing writing. I’m quite exhausted, not feeling very well. I tell myself that’s just part of the process, which means I’m working at it hard enough.
A month ago, with the Fringe on the horizon, Amy and I are scheduled to sit down and look at the text again. To discuss what might need working on before August. Yet I’ve not been sleeping well. Teeth grinding, heart pounding and some bruising. There’s definitely a problem. I’m not sure I’m feeling well enough to work. I am, at this point, quite ill.
We start a month ago, as we now start most things, with a conversation. We sit down together and don’t do any writing. We talk about my concerns. We talk about hers. We often don’t talk about the show. We talk about all manner of shite. We go to Greggs. Then, without making any clear plans, or signalling our intentions, we start to fall into a rhythm. All the while, not entirely consciously, we were negotiating a shared approach, a way to write Scribble.
We write the final draft together. I do the typing. Amy sits nearby and either gets on with some admin or talks about Mad Men. I pass the laptop to her so she can read, sometimes line by line. Sometimes I perform it to her. We shift between different spaces - workplaces, coffee shops and her sitting room. It feels easy, remarkably so – small details don’t seem to matter as much. It’s a lot less lonely and I am sleeping quite well. It’s a method that is easy to pick and easy to put down. When we stop writing I stop writing; and the last draft of Scribble – no.49 – is done.
Being aware about mental health is central to how Scribble was made. It's an act of research, trying to answer that question above: a move toward a working method that bends, that’s porous, that suits the people in the room.