The Value of Composting
I've participated in Naplwrimo for 5 years. My first year I wrote 65 pages. I won.
(I think the page count was lower that first year.)
I haven't finished that play. But I looked at it yesterday and it's definitely worth going back and working on. The last time I read it, I didn't feel that way. I felt kind of embarrassed by it. Thought it was probably one of the worst plays I'd written in the past ten years.
But I don't regret writing it. I was ready to write it. And to write it straight through. It didn't turn out like I imagined. I wasn't always up to the task of writing it - to matching what hit the page with my vision of what I wanted the play to be. But I wrote anyway. I wrote everyday.
I learned and discovered so many new things during the process of writing it. I learned to look at character differently. I was able to break away from Realism. I challenged myself to let go of old habits, of familar, comfortable, safe ways of writing. I let go of things that people loved about my work, that I had gotten praise for.
I let it all go.
This was an important step for me. For many reasons.
It was the first play I wrote after my theater company disbanded. It was difficult to write alone, to write knowing that I wouldn't have a company to share it with. That we wouldn't be developing it - there would be no readings informal or otherwise. This was the most difficult thing to let go of. But I realized as I wrote that I had felt constrained by working with a company too. Because I self-produced, I automatically wrote with a producer filter on. I was constantly editing myself based on what I knew my company could actually afford to do and who would be in it.
Naplwrimo (and grad school) gave me the freedom to just write. To tell the story however it came to me. It gave me the freedom to let go and experiment in form and content and style. It gave me the freedom to question the very nature of a play, to strip it down, and to expose my assumptions about what a play even is. This is valuable work.
And here’s the thing.
If I hadn’t written that play, I wouldn’t have been able to write the two plays that have come after it (both started during Naplwrimo) and the five others that are waiting to be written. The work builds off of itself. What you consider a failure may be the compost for the next play you write. That too is valuable. And that is why it's important that you keep writing. Not for us. Not for the atta-boys or atta-girls. But for yourself. For what you'll discover. For what you'll learn. For how it will feed your life and your work. For what might grow out of what you make today.
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.