In the fall of 1998, I had the idea for a play — about a woman who got dumped for no reason whatsoever, and must go through a process of healing in order to ultimately get over the relationship ending. I was really excited and I wrote the first scene of the first act as a monologue for the most part — her explaining what had happened and how she was handling the whole situation. This is followed by a phone call that interrupts her and sets up the next scene, in which she meets up with friends.

I had not yet found out about Hemingway’s technique, so that is exactly where I stopped. I came back day after day to the scene and had no clue what I wanted to write next. Not only that, but I had no idea about what was going to happen for the entirety of the rest of the play other than she would “get over it” somehow and it would end with a satisfying resolution.

The following April, my then girlfriend and I had a conversation that led to the dissolution of our relationship. She told me that a close colleague of hers kissed her when they were on a train. I asked her how she reacted to this and she told me that she kissed him back. The very next day, I started the next scene of the play. “She kissed him back?” was the line of dialogue spoken by the first character in the scene.

I had decided that this play was now going to be about two different characters who were having troubles getting over relationships that ended for two very different reasons. The first was going to be a relationship that ended because it just had no future.

The second was the relationship that ended because of infidelity. The idea was that the characters would act like sounding boards for each other. “You think you have it bad being dumped for no reason…?”

Of course, the reality was that I was both of those characters. A couple of years earlier, I had been dumped for apparently no reason. Then there was the infidelity. Despite this strong start to the second scene, I still didn’t know what was going to happen in the rest of the play. Again, I sat down day after day once the second scene was finished — not a clue in the world how to continue.

A few months passed, and I was despondent. I really wanted this play to be written. It happened that I was on vacation from school and I had no summer job. One of my mother’s best friends said she would love to have me visit her in London for a week. I went, with the intention that I would do absolutely nothing of the ‘tourist’ nature. I decided one day while I was sitting in a beautiful park that I was going to write a good solid outline for the play. I therefore decided, while writing the outline, exactly what I wanted to happen for the rest of the play and in what sequence.

Once I had the outline locked down, the rest of the play came easily. It still took until late January 2002 to firmly finish the play, but the pace was much quicker than that of when I had no ideas other than what I wanted to happen in one or two scenes.

Before you start on any creative project, be it a play, novel, diorama — give outlining a go. It might be the ticket to making your creative project happen.


  1. Outstanding advice, Gordon! I would only add that using an outline as a suggestion is the best approach — don’t be afraid to go a different way from the outline if your characters and plot decide to surprise you.

  2. So very true, David! 🙂 It has happened to me that I needed to make a change — and so changed the outline 🙂

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