NaPlWriMo 2011 Rhino Burst #5: The Home Stretch
Our final Rhino Burst comes from Marisela Treviño Orta. I met Marisela over the summer, but have enjoyed reading her blog posts for awhile. I'm inspired by her work ethic (she has admirable & stellar work habits) and her enthusiasm for theater and playwrighting is contagious.
This is it. Cue Chariots of Fire.
Ya know, the thing about the Chariots of Fire theme song is even though it conjures up this image of crossing the finish line, it’s in slow motion. At least that’s how I imagine it.
And I imagine there are plenty of playwrights out there trying to finish their plays in these last days of November who feel so close yet so far away from their own finish lines. You may be fighting to get there inch by inch, or rather, line by line. Or, if we continue with this running analogy, you’ve hit the wall and find yourself praying for endorphins to kick in and carry you on a wave of euphoria over the finish line.
I have to say, writing-related endorphins have only kicked in AFTER I’ve accomplished something, after I’ve had a breakthrough. But getting that breakthrough, accomplishing what I once thought was almost impossible doesn’t always come easy. In fact, it usually is never easy. That’s the real work of a writer: to make it past those doldrums, to solve the problems we’ve created for our characters (and ourselves) and to finish what we’ve started.
Now, while I am not currently participating in this month-long exercise (I have a good reason: I’m working on two plays with deadlines that hold me accountable to two different theatres), I know what you are going through dear playwright. You see, one of the plays I’m working on I had to write in a much shorter span of time than I’m accustomed to. Technically I had all summer, but other writing projects and…well, procrastination whittled down that time frame to one month.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: there’s nothing like impending doom, I mean, a deadline to get you to write.
Now, you need to know that usually I take my time when writing the first draft of a play. I mean months. Months! But this past August I had no choice but to write the first draft of a play so that I could take it to a September retreat where I would share it with my peers.
I remember the home stretch of that play. I had a gaping hole in the narrative near the end. You see, I tend not to write linearly, so I already had my ending written. But like I said, there was a gaping hole in the shape of a blank white page staring back at me from my laptop.
It was Chariots of Fire time and I was running in place. I didn’t feel ready. Not ready to finish the play, to write the penultimate scenes that would fill that gap in the narrative. This was unfamiliar territory for me. Like I said before I usually take my time to write a play so this shortened time frame was forcing me to write.
I had to tell myself: just finish. Just write. The ideas are there, even if they are kind of fuzzy.
I had to tell myself to remember that this is just the first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it can be imperfect. It can bring up questions. It can leave you wanting more. Because the truth is I would have the next six months to keep working on the play, to flesh out the scenes, do rewrites, edits, etc. And you dear playwright will have more time with your play. There will be second and third and possibly more (several if you’re like me) drafts of your play that you can continue to refine or rewrite however you choose.
But keep in mind that this month’s challenge is not just about getting you to write a new play. It’s about challenging yourself as a writer, about pushing yourself beyond your own writing limits.
Because it’s when we’re challenged that we grow, that we are forced to develop. And in the end this experience will provide you with a frame of reference so that in the future when you find yourself faced with a writing challenge that seems impossible, that requires you to venture into new writing territory, you can look back on this past November and recall how you raced against time, against writer’s block, against the odds and crossed that finish line.
And remember, whether you cross it at a full sprint or at a crawl the important thing is: you finished.
Best of luck!
Marisela Treviño Orta is a San Franciscan poet and playwright. Her first play, Braided Sorrow, won the 2006 Chicano/Latino Literary Prize in Drama and the 2009 Pen Center USA Literary Award in Drama. Her other plays include: American Triage, Heart Shaped Nebula, The River Bride, Wolf at the Door and Woman on Fire. Marisela also writes a literary blog: Variations on a Theme (http://www.xanga.com/mtorta). Follow her on Twitter at Twitter.com/MariselaTOrta.
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