I love cooking, but never wanted to be a chef or baker because having to cook isn’t the same as wanting to cook.
As a full-time writer, I keep things interesting by covering different subjects. Learning something new with each project prevents me from getting bored. But over time, spending 40+ hours per week at the keyboard writing for fun became a foreign concept.
About a year ago, one of my best friends entered the first ever Rockford New Play Festival, and her play was one of the short plays chosen to be read by actors. Watching her play, and the others, read aloud before an overflowing crowd really inspired me – on multiple levels.
- The plays were really good. The actors reading them were good, too. And the audience was enthusiastic. I was inspired as a writer.
- It was impressive that a new and relatively unknown playwriting event in Rockford could draw such a large and diverse audience. I was inspired by the local arts community.
- I was inspired that a relatively small group of people pulled it off.
Upon hearing entries were being accepted for the second annual Rockford New Play Festival, I thought it would be fun to enter, even if playwriting isn’t my forte. Encouraged by the friend who participated last year, I decided to give it a try and soon a rough idea that had been percolating in my brain for a while became a 10-minute play, The Grove.
I submitted it in May and forgot about it. But the creative writing bug had bitten again. Suddenly I wanted to test myself with different types of writing.
When I read about a 24-hour short story competition, I registered right away and counted down the days until they assigned the length and a general theme (they encourage writers to stretch and play with the theme) I would never have thought to write about.
Guess what? The contest’s prompts spurred my creativity and the ideas poured out.
In a weird way, having a tight deadline helped focus my efforts. By removing the luxury of obsessing over every comma, the 24-hour deadline made the writing process more visceral and less precious. I loved every minute of it!
Entering these contests was something I did for fun, and to stretch my creative writing muscles. The winners of the 24-hour Short Story contest won’t be announced for a few weeks yet, and I don’t hope to be among them.
Then again, I didn’t expect The Grove would be one of six 10-minute plays — out of 520 entries from across the country — selected to be read at the second annual Rockford New Play Festival. But it was.
[Date, time and other details for the event can be found here: 2015 RNPF.]
Accepting a creative challenge is never a mistake, but letting one slip past you is.
What creative challenges have you taken on lately, and what did you learn from them?