April 17, 2013
Saved by a Ukulele
I’ve got a brand new Ukulele. A purple one. I’ve acquired it because over the next five months I have to write a novel, a screen play and a radio play. So, rather than a) freak out or b) knuckle down, I’ve done what any self-respecting writer worth their displacement activity will do – I’ve decided to learn to play a musical instrument.
This makes no sense. Nor is it supposed to. I’m feeling over-whelmed, so my brain flails around for something to take my mind off the big task at hand… and I came up with Ukelele playing, of course.
This is not utter insanity (though it is probably closely related) I intend on working in some basic ukulele playing into my radio play. Though, more importantly, it is allowing me to be a child. I am an award winning writer, with a prestigious MA, who has published and has had work broadcast. I am also a former student of the visual arts. Therefore, when I write or paint or draw, there’s pressure to be good, to deliver to a professional standard – which bleeds some of the creative enjoyment from the activity. And I miss that.
I’m unmusical. I have a voice like a strangled cat crashing though a shattering window and early attempts at piano, well, they didn’t take. So, I’m rather confident that I’ll be rotten on the ukulele too. Hurrah! Thus, my purple ukulele will allow me to be a child again – and if I never progress past three chords, I won’t care. In fact, I’ll wallow in it and seek refuge in it when the pressure of what I must achieve over the coming months seems too much.
And if the book, screenplay and radio play don’t fly – I can always take up busking.
All together now, 1,2,3,4…
From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022.
Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer.
Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series.
Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts).
Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm.
Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy.
An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus.
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April 17th, 2013 at 21:53
If anyone can accomplish what you have laid out over the next five months, it would be you. The uke is a bonus. Enjoy!
April 17th, 2013 at 22:46
I think you’re doing the right thing, Sue. It’s good to return to childhood now and then. They make a lovely sound, but it doesn’t matter if yours never does – Google Ukelele Orchestra for inspiration – and very well done on your recent impressive achievements.
April 18th, 2013 at 00:16
Go with it. I’m sure by entwining writing and ukulele playing the play on the radio it will sing. Not like the murdered metaphor I’ve just left you with, sorry.
April 18th, 2013 at 09:13
It’s the only sensible response to writing dilemmas. And purple too! Respect.
April 18th, 2013 at 14:29
I love it!!! You have to show a clip when you have mastered your three chords!!! Purple and flowered.How much more perfect can it get:) Good luck!
April 18th, 2013 at 17:52
The world needs more ukulele music. 🙂
YouTube is your best friend for getting started, but if you’re planning on getting any books, I’d recommend at least “The Daily Ukulele” by Jim Beloff and “Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book” by Lil’ Rev. Both are great for getting you away and strumming!
April 19th, 2013 at 17:38
So funny that you posted this. My partner and I were just talking to someone about how cool the ukelele is, especially nowadays. I really want one, but I won’t dare to ask or buy one until I’ve conquered the guitar.
I think it’s a good idea to find something like this to distract yourself from your work. It’s still constructive, but it’s fun and different, and provides a nice little break.
Good luck! 🙂
April 26th, 2013 at 14:08
I just read a poem called “Ukulele” yesterday by Sandra Beasley. It’s in the Spring 2013 edition of Plougshares. You should check it out!