I wanted to share a little story about following inspiration and continuing to follow it…Months ago I listened to a song called, Underwater, by Mika. As I listened to this song I had a whirl of imagery, the images of a story that began to play in my mind. The music called to a part of me that wanted to create, so I sat back and enjoyed the inspiration, the flow, the beginning seed of a story. When the song was over, I instantly thought of the movie Mama Mia and how a writer took songs from Abba and weaved them into a story. I thought and wondered if Mika would have any other songs that could fit into a story. I did not know very much about Mika & wasn’t even sure if he had other songs, so I jumped on iTunes and the story came. Song by song I envisioned the scenes, the characters, what should happen, who was singing, on and on. It was a visual delight within my soul.
My mind began to want more and more, the passion began to take over as I needed to pursue costume ideas, see visuals of where this story should take place, piece the songs together and have the beginning seeds of a possible musical. I was creating for days.
WHAT WAS I THINKING began to set in & the usual gremlin thoughts tried to get in & make me question why I was wasting time on creating a musical. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?? A writer, let alone a screenplay writer…the thoughts whirled, but I just wanted to see where the story went, what would happen to the characters, I continued on. I created an outline with visuals of a nine act storyline & then didn’t know what to do. WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO?
I knew nothing would happen without Mika and any thoughts, permission or direction would go nowhere without getting in touch with him and finding out if there was any interest. I tried and tried to locate him. I even sent some info. to his fan club, hoping to get something to him, but to no avail. [So, if anyone out there knows how to contact Mika or his managers–please pass it along. thanks]
I was at a standstill, unable to go forward, unsure why I had this inspiration drop into my lap & what was it meant to be?? I looked up to the heavens and said, “God, I am listening, creating, trying to put something out there, but I don’t know where to go from here.” I put the idea aside.
Last week my daughter wanted to watch the movie Mama Mia (because it is one of her favorites & we had not seen it in awhile) & we enjoyed every minute.
My mind began to whirl again with ideas of getting in touch with the screenplay writer of Mamma Mia to see if she would have any insight or direction for my musical idea. Granted, my mind began again with thoughts of, why would she talk to you, she has written the largest grossing film in the UK (Mamma Mia) & has done numerous plays all over the UK. She doesn’t have time for you.
I carried on wondering how I would find her, if she would have the time…I emailed a couple of people I thought may know how to locate her & yesterday I received an email from her. Yay!!! It was like the best New Years present ever & yet she didn’t even know what I wanted. I sat and read everything I could find about this woman & was so inspired by her rags to riches story, so my hope was she would see my passion for an idea & help me in any direction.
I wrote her an email and shared with her my inspiration that came to me after hearing one song & asked her for any direction or advice she would be willing to share. She had been through every stage of creating, writing and putting together the unbelievable experience of Mamma Mia, so I knew it was a long shot that she would even reply, but I hoped.
I got her reply at 4 this morning!!! I am truly grateful to her and her guidance. I read her email to my husband & he said, “Wow, she is a woman who is paying it forward. She didn’t even have to help or respond. She could have just told you she was too busy.” I am truly grateful for her advice and direction & will keep plugging along in the directions she has given me & hopefully this little idea will blossom. If anything, this experience has shown me to never doubt or question, to follow feelings and desires, because that is where inspiration lives. Follow your dreams.
Catherine Johnson is downing an energy drink that promises to provide “energy, stamina, focus and drive”. But does she really need any more? The Bristol-based playwright went from being a tearaway teenager, expelled from school after a stand-off with the headmaster over a revealing top, to the author of Mamma Mia!, one of the most successful musicals ever. Johnson also wrote the screenplay for the film version, which became the highest-grossing British movie of all time.
It’s a career trajectory most writers could only dream of. Yet Johnson, 51, with a glossy, chestnut bob and a warm, open manner, says she still sometimes gets out of bed feeling like a failure. “Every time I start a new work, I feel a complete lack of confidence,” she says. “It must be because I’ve had less years of being a success than I had of being a failure. For a lot of my life, I felt a complete letdown.”
Johnson left school with little to sustain her but a couple of O-levels and a love of writing that had been encouraged by weekly visits, with her father, to the Bristol Old Vic. For years, it seemed that success as a writer was beyond her grasp. “Writing was the only thing I was good at,” she says, “but I also wanted to hang out with the bad boys. I had a good few years when I ran away from things and sometimes life ran away from me.” An early marriage ended in divorce; when another relationship broke up, she found herself a single mother in her 30s, barely able to afford nappies.
She was considering training to be a probation officer when another trip to the Bristol Old Vic – to see Jim Cartwright’s 1980s play Road, about northern working-class life – changed her life. “I suddenly realised I could write about people like me, living real, messy lives,” says Johnson. She rushed home and, within two weeks, had written Rag Doll, a play about child abuse in a West Country family. It won an award and went on to be a success at London’s Bush theatre. Other successes at the Bush followed. Then, in 1997, the playwright and director Terry Johnson, her sometime mentor, heard about a proposed musical based around the songs of Abba – and recommended Johnson to the show’s producer, Judy Craymer. Mamma Mia! was born.
You go Catherine!! Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.