I know myself well enough to understand that I’m more productive when I have a deadline, so I decided to give myself a goal to light a fire under my creative process. It began almost on a whim when I read about Camp Nanowrimo, a summer offshoot of the phenomenon known as National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November.
The idea behind the virtual camp is to work on a project for the month of July and keep track of your word count. Throughout July the good folks at Camp Nanowrimo send you daily tips, lots of encouragement, and even set you up with virtual tent mates. I was assigned to a cabin of twelve writers, who are there to provide moral support for each other during the camp experience and also serve as proof that you are not alone even though writing is usually a solitary activity.
My plan was to finish my full-length play, A Wilder Woman. I had already written about 7000 words before camp started, so I figured another 30,000 would finish it off. I was doing great on my goal of 1000 words a day for the first six days. But on July 6, I realized that my play probably didn’t need to be 37,000 words. It was probably going to be a shorter play. I kept writing anyway, but I fizzled out because I knew that at that point I was padding it just to reach my word count goal, which is not terribly productive. Then I couldn’t figure out how best to end it, which stalled me out completely. Sigh. So much for making that self-imposed deadline.
Last weekend at the ATLAS (Advanced Training Leading Artists to Success)Playwrights Showcase, I ran into Anthony Clarvoe, a playwright whose class I’d taken, who asked how my writing was going (because, of course, that’s what writers ask each other). I admitted that I hadn’t gotten much further on my play despite my foray into virtual camp. He sympathized and said that strict word counts often fail as inspiration. I asked about his progress, and he mentioned that he definitely had to be careful that his teaching responsibilities didn’t keep him from writing.
And it occurred to me that this is going to be a lifelong challenge. Anthony has been writing far longer than I have and still has to be conscious of balancing it with other parts of his life. It may get easier, but writing a play is never something I’ll be able to do on auto-pilot. And it shouldn’t be. (That’s probably how so many awful TV shows get written.)
I love to write. But it takes dedication. And I get distracted.
And if I want an audience to see my play, I have to keep at it. It seems obvious, I know. But maybe a slight shift in perspective is all I need to get back on the right track.
So I may be a lousy camper, but I’m still a writer, dammit.