Dean Mitchell is not only a thoughtful writer, he is also a thoughtful supporter of other playwrights’ writing—perhaps more so than anyone else I know. A peep in on his work spaces reflects Dean’s approach to writing—and life—in spades. . .
Me: Your desk area is pristine! Not just the desktop, but the shelves too. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you clean this up before taking the photo for me?
Dean: I’m not sure. I wasn’t aware of consciously cleaning up before taking the photos. Your question makes me a little suspicious though, because I grew up in a very secretive Mormon home where we were always taught to only show the best of ourselves. I think I became a writer so that I could express what I was really thinking and feeling. Maybe the answer to your question is 10.
Me: Oh dear—I’m sorry! I certainly never intend that question to force someone to revisit their childhood! But now that we’ve gone there, more on this pristine space: Something about the way of its simplicity, but surrounded by art everywhere. . . It makes me feel—Well, do you write as an “aesthete?”
Dean: I had to look the meaning of “aesthete” up. It’s a challenging word—
Me: Yes, I use that word in this context very consciously.
Dean: The answer is, “Yes.” My approach to writing or any kind of creativity is always from pure emotion and sensation. I try to reach an immoral, amoral state of mind where I make no judgments about anyone or anything. Writing is a totally Godless or Godly condition where nothing exists but creativity.
Me: Tell me what’s on the bookshelf that applies to your writing—especially any current projects.
Dean: I might be adapting my play, “The King of Greek,” into a screenplay so I am continuing to research the German occupation of Greece. My favorite book is “Inside Hitler’s Greece: The Experience of Occupation 1941-44” by Mark Mazower. It is a horrifying and brutally honest book. It is difficult to read but it forces me to comprehend and try to understand how cruel some human beings can be. Another book that I always have on my bookshelf is “The Art of Dramatic Writing” by Lajos Egri. I use it for the technical structuring of anything I may be writing. It can be used for playwriting, screenwriting, and/or novel writing. In spite of my “immoral creativity” I am a firm believer in the classic structure of writing.
Me: When you sent me your photos, you “captioned” the blue chair with the quilt as your “favorite place to write—think and plot.” What does that mean for you, and why does this place in your home work for that?
Me: Oh! That image. . .
Dean: In addition to being a rocking chair, it is very poorly held together. I always feel it may fall apart, so this helps me never lock into anything. I try to remain totally fluid when I am thinking and plotting a piece. This chair is in my study so it is the place in my home where I probably do the most creating.
Me: I really love that metaphor. And the art and decorations surrounding the blue chair are so eclectic! How did that arrangement come about. . . including the pink decorative lights and the Raggedy Ann!
Dean: That is a very astute question. I designed this entire area as a place to create. I wanted it to be original, comfortable and offensive but with a homey spirit. People who see this area have a very strong reaction to it. Some of them want to sit in the chair and others want to run into another room. I always have both reactions.
Me: And then you captioned the green chair as your “favorite place to re-write— think and plot.” Same questions: What does that mean for you, and why does that location work?
Dean: This area is used for re-writing and re-thinking what I’ve already written, so I wanted it to be more secure and safe. Usually I’m much further along in my process of writing so I need to be on a “safer footing.” I specifically chose a chair that was extremely comfortable and one that I could use for meditation. I also like the chair being next to my bed so I can reach it without much effort after writing late into the night.
Me: When you do write late at night and then drag yourself into bed, what is it you think to yourself before you fall asleep?
Dean: The challenge is to shut off my writing brain. I do this by trying to create a peaceful, meditative state of mind.