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Rhino Burst 's blog
Naplwrimo Founder, Dorothy Lemoult kicks-off our 5th Year with the first of our weekly Rhino Bursts*. Rhino Bursts are written specifically for the community by people we deem worthy of rallying Rhinos with the magic of their words and offer inspiration, advice, and that extra bit of juice as we focus on getting out that first draft. Dorothy's burst is fueled by her 5 years of experience fostering the community and watching, helping, and cheering for all Rhinos to cross that finish line on November 30!
*A burst is the sound that an adult rhino makes, though it is barely audible to human ears. A baby rhino on the other hand makes a squeak.
Dorothy Lemoult, here…
As many of you know, 5 years ago, inspired by the folks who created Nanowrimo, I started this crazy enterprise.
This year, I’m taking a back seat. Elizabeth Spreen and Toni Wilson have taken over management and forums moderation. They will be your trusty guides for the month and the site is already bumping thanks to their dedication and enthusiasm.
At this stage, waiting for the clock to strike 12:00am on November 1st, most of you are just eager to start writing your first line of dialogue or your first stage direction. Some of you have done some thinking about what you’re going to write about, some of you already have titles and some of you have not the slightest idea what your play is going to be about. Some of you are somewhere in the middle and some of you are letting your inner critic convince you that you don’t have time, after all, to do this thing.
I’ll be honest with you; the furthest I’ve ever made it in Naplwrimo was 65 pages. Finishing Naplwrimo is no small accomplishment. The main thing I have learned from those who finished Naplwrimo is that the secret to finishing is to get ahead.
Getting started is easy.
What I am hoping this pep talk will help you do is take advantage of your current burst of starting energy and get ahead. Here are some tips that are guaranteed to help you do that:
- If you’re on the fence, in limbo or torturing yourself over whether you can do this or not, try this: write a scene between your inner critic and you writer self. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write. Once you’re done, choose (never decide) what you’re going to do.
- After you’ve chosen (again, never decide), commit yourself for the month and write your first 3 pages. It doesn’t even have to be the beginning of your play. Just write 3 pages. Any 3 pages. If you don’t know where to start in your play, make a list of all the things you do know about the play you want to write. Keep writing. You’ll be surprised how much you already know about the play you want to write.
- Call, Facebook, Twitter or email 3 people you know (and that you know are supportive of your creative endeavors (don’t pick your saboteurs, you know who they are…) and let them know you’re doing Naplwrimo.
- Go to the Forums and introduce yourself to one other playwright on the site (it can be someone who likes similar playwrights as you, or someone from the same region as you, or even better, someone who seems to have nothing in common with you!)
- Go find 1 person who has finished Naplwrimo in the past and ask *them* for tips: Head over to the play archive, browse a bit, find a playwright that inspires you and contact them through their contact form.
- Bookmark the tracking page. That page is your friend. It displays all new posts in the Naplwrimo forums and on the site in one convenient menu. It will save you tons of time and keep you in the loop without having to browse the site for hours to find out what you missed. You’re here to write after all, and we know that!
- Read Adam Szymkowicz’s “Advice for Playwrights Starting Out.”
- Follow the 7 Rules of the Rhino.
- Don’t let anyone tell you there are rules to doing anything. Follow your own rules.
- Save your wrists from Repetitive Strain Injury and install the free program WorkRave to help you remember to stretch and take breaks.
- Write, write, write!!
As an opening ritual, here is Homer’s Ode to the Muse:
O Divine Poesy,
Goddess, daughter of Zeus,
Sustain for me this song of the various-minded man who,
After he had plundered the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy,
Was made to stay grievously about the coasts of men,
The sport of their customs,
Good and bad,
While his heart,
Through all the sea-faring,
Ached with an agony to redeem himself and bring his company safe home.
Vain hope – for them.
Their own witlessness cast them aside.
To destroy for meat the oxen of the most exalted Sun,
Wherefore the Sun-god blotted out the day of their return.
Make this tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse.”
– from Homer’s Odyssey
I now declare Naplwrimo 2010 open!
Write, Rhino. Write!
I had a student come to me with last week with something that was troubling her. She thought that her play was no good because all the characters in it were too sweet—she was following her impulse to write about the down and out, about prostitutes and disenfranchised people, she had a story she wanted to tell, but the problem was that the characters who arrived to tell it with her were all kind and generous. Did I think this was all right?
I told her that we go to the theater for the same reason that we fall in love—to see the world through another’s eyes. That’s what you bring as a playwright—your eyes, your way of seeing the world. If you start second guessing that, if you start distrusting your vision—then there is very little point in writing your play. This playwright may someday write a play with venomous, dishonest characters—but not this one. And if she really wanted precedent for comfort, she could take it in the fact that for every 2 black-hearted streetwalkers in our art form, there are 3 hookers with a heart of gold. Her play doesn’t have to look like an edgy HBO series to create value and meaning. One of the things that we all forget sometimes is that innocence may very well be a pre-condition for creating art—that ability to experience wonder, that refusal to be jaded and consider anything known, or “old,” or fully understood—the innocent goes out into the world, into their art, looking for understanding. The jaded goes out looking for sensation. Your audience likes both, of course, but given the choice—their hunger for insight will trump sensation every time.
I think that, in general, self-censoring is the soul killer. Now, I’m not suggesting that we should uncouple all our filters and just free associate page after page: someone said that what is written without effort is read without pleasure. (I’m pretty sure that’s not strictly true—we’ve all had whole scenes that just arrived like manna from heaven, and it’s scary how much better they are than the things we toil and sweat over—still, in general, if you don’t care about your work, it won’t be something that other people will care about, either.) So trust your vision. Trust it all the way to the end of your first draft. I’m also a believer in not showing your play to anyone, unless you have a really reliable first reader, until you make it to the end. You’re going someplace important. Picking up hitchhikers—and they encourage a detour here or there, right?—can be dangerous, just like our mothers have always said.
The great thing about writing a play quickly is that it doesn’t give you a lot of time for self-censoring. One of the great and terrifying things about writing a play is that it’s not like a novel or short story or poem—theatre is a time bound art. It relies on the human beings, in real time, on stage and in the audience. It begins and ends the way a breath goes in and out, and you must pack an entire world inside that breath, that simple in and out. It happens, on stage and inside us. And to write it you have to get all the way to the end of that breath, before it’s gone. Before you have lost it. Sometimes that takes some running. And always, it takes belief. In yourself, in your vision.
So rush headlong into your plays and don’t look back, drive like a New York City driver, break the speed limit, pick up hitchhikers if they don’t derail you, but remember that your vision is what you bring to the table, and if you start fitting it with too many pairs of corrective lenses too soon, the audience will end up seeing something they could see anyplace else. We deserve the chance to see the things that only you can see, the way you see them.
And when you’ve written your first draft? Remember that rewriting is a different kind of magic. In Yeats’ famous poem “Among School Children”
How can we know the dancer from the dance
Started off as:
It seems the dancer and the dance are one. But he would never have found his way to that lovely line, if he hadn’t started with the un-poetry of the original one. You will have plenty of time to bring on your inner Inspector General later. But not now. Trust your impulses, and your audience will too.
Sherry Kramer's work has been seen at theaters across the country and abroad, including the Humana Festival at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, InterAct Theatre, Yale Repertory Theater, Soho Rep, Ensemble Studio Theater, New York's Second Stage, The Woolly Mammoth, The Tokyo International Arts Festival, and The Theater of the First Amendment. She is a recipient of N E A, New York Foundation for the Arts and McKnight Fellowships, the Weissberger Playwriting Award and a New York Drama League Award (WHAT A MAN WEIGHS), the L A Women in Theater New Play Award (THE WALL OF WATER), The Jane Chambers Playwriting Award (DAVID'S REDHAIRED DEATH), and a commission from A.S.K (THE MAD MASTER). Other plays include: WHEN SOMETHING WONDERFUL ENDS, THINGS THAT BREAK, ABOUT SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, NAPOLEON’S CHINA (music theatre piece with Ann Haskell and Rebecca Newton), THE MASTER AND MARGARITA (music theatre adaptation with composer Margaret Pine), THE RELEASE OF A LIVE PERFORMANCE, PARTIAL OBJECTS, THE WORLD AT ABSOLUTE ZERO, HOLD FOR THREE, BEFORE AND AFTER, NANO AND NICKI IN BOCA RATON, THE LONG ARMS OF JUPITER, THE RULING PASSION, THE END OF RADIO, THE LAW MAKES EVENING FALL, and THE BAY OF FUNDY: An Adaptation of One Line from The Mayor of Casterbridge. She was the first national member of New Dramatists, and teaches playwriting at Bennington College, and often in the MFA programs of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop and the Michener Center for Writers, UT Austin.
- Naplwrimo 2009 Burst # 2: Follow Your Digressions by Dennis Schebetta
- Naplwrimo 2009 Burst # 1: Every Way is the Right Way by Aaron Riccio
- Naplwrimo 2009 Burst #3: 8 or 9 Things to Try by Mead Hunter
- Naplwrimo 2009 Burst #4: The Ways We Stop Ourselves by Sherry Kramer
- Naplwrimo 2009 Burst # 5: Reflections on Naplwrimo by Elizabeth Spreen.
- Go, Rhino, Go!
- Naplwrimo 2010 Rhino Burst #2: Keeping It Simple by Travis Bedard
- Naplwrimo 2010 Rhino Burst #3: Getting December to Talk: What Happens When Characters are Too Quiet
- NaPlWriMo 2011 Rhino Burst #1: There's Still Time
- NaPlWriMo 2011 Rhino Burst #2: Discovering Theatre
- NaPlWriMo 2011 Rhino Burst #3: The Readiness is All
- NaPlWriMo 2011 Rhino Burst #4: The Time and Space to Write
- NaPlWriMo 2011 Rhino Burst #5: The Home Stretch
- NaPlWriMo 2012 Rhino Burst: Take Your Cuts
- So How Did I Do?
Naplwrimo runs on love, sweat and your generous help.
Thank you to our donors!
Machelle Allman, Holly Arsenault, Will Bond, Karen Chandler, Michael Lee, Leslie Liautaud, Jeff Mackey, Maggie McAleese, Marian McNamee, Marla Porter, and all our anonymous donors.