NaPlWriMo 2011 Rhino Burst #4: The Time and Space to Write
Some timely advice from Laura Axelrod. Maybe you can identify...
Hanging Rhino, Germany. via Dancing with Ghosts flickr stream
This is my first year with NaPlWriMo. It has been a disaster.
I started with good intentions. In October, I mapped out the characters and story in my mind. I knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.
During the first week of November, my mother had emergency surgery. I rushed to the East Coast to be by her side.
She had a successful recovery. Within days after coming back to home, I developed flu-like symptoms. Three days later, my computer died.
In all the chaos, I still managed to write 30 pages. It wasn’t hard to write; however, getting to space where I could do the writing was difficult.
Some playwrights view their writing as a hobby, while others see themselves as career playwrights. But we all deal with the same problem: bringing our bodies to the blank page.
When life intervenes on your plans to write, what do you do?
1) Ask yourself if you are harboring any self-defeating thoughts. One of my favorite excuses for not writing is the idea that writing is a self-indulgent activity. I feel guilty for taking the time to write. Shouldn’t I be doing something more productive? I often have to remind myself that writing is valuable, and that my writing is valuable to me.
2) Even if you are writing only an hour a day, that’s all it takes. Years ago, I used to arrive early at my day job to work on a play. After spending time with my characters, I spent the rest of the day feeling grounded and centered. This routine gave me confidence that I was a writer, even if the rest of the world thought of me as an administrative assistant. Once you develop a routine, it will be easy to maintain it.
3) When life becomes challenging, keep yourself connected with your stories. Even if you can’t find a block of time to work, you can still make notes or outline scenes in your spare time. Maintaining the connection will help you work faster when you finally get a block of time to write.
Even though time is running out, I still think I can finish my play. After all, it only took me 2 days to write 30 pages. But the most valuable lesson from my experience with NaPlWriMo this year is that no matter what the circumstances, I can always give myself the time and space to write.
Laura Axelrod is a playwright and freelance writer. Her plays and monologues have been performed in New York, California and Europe. Her play, “Everybody In This House” was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. The script is available through Original Works. Follow her at twitter.com/laura_axelrod. Her website is www.lauraaxelrod.com.
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