Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Time Challenges

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! As writers we’re all familiar with facing the unknown…the blank page, the characters we haven’t developed yet, the plot or incident that will make a story sing, or what words will bring this or that poem to life. And, as writers we’re all familiar with the looming deadlines. As a poet/playwright, and even as a writing teacher, I meet these obstacles on a regular basis – if not in my own writing that I want to submit somewhere, but with students that are in a panic because of an approaching assignment deadline. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a creative vehicle or a research paper the results are the same…a sense of dread/panic/hopelessness mixed with a dash of exhilaration (if you like the challenge)...before we finally get something of substance down on paper.

If we’re lucky what we write will eventually turn into something we like and are excited to share with others. And, if you’re not a procrastinator…like I can be, you will have a few days, weeks, or even months to tinker with your work before the deadline arrives. Believe me, I never have months (unless it’s something that I’ve had sent back and decided to revise further to attempt publication or production elsewhere) to tinker with my work before sending it off.

I do like a challenge, and that is why I’ve participated in writing that really puts the pressure on. When I lived in Indianapolis, I participated in something called Masterpiece in a Day. It’s where you go to Fountain Square on a designated Saturday in September, register before 9 am to write a poem or a piece of prose, or create a piece of visual art…anyone that registers has to have their piece completed and submitted by 3 pm and by 5 pm judges announce the winners – hence, “masterpiece in a day.” I was fortunate enough to place 2nd for two years, and 3rd in another…all with poems. The competition is always stiff, and believe me it was a great feeling to even participate and get something written that I could live with…let alone win anything.

So, I knew that I could write under pressure…with a blank page (no head starts) as a rule – and that’s why I didn’t hesitate to jump at a chance to participate in a theatre version of this in Canton, MI (now that I live in Ypsi) on January 8th & 9th, 2016, at The Village Theatre. StageLab24 is billed as a theatre experiment. Here’s how it works: the author shows up at 8 pm, goes through an orientation which includes the rules, such as the plays could have no more than 4 characters, no more than 12 pgs., etc, then between 9:30-10 pm begin writing a 10 minute play. The play was to be complete and ready to turn over to the director by 7 am the following morning.

I had a few ideas rumbling around in my head by 10 pm, and began typing up dialogue for one of them…I felt like it was going nowhere and quickly decided that I needed to switch gears…in the 2nd play attempt I began thinking it was going to be about a bird sanctuary being held up by a group of rednecks (roughly based off of the Oregan standoff… and represented by one male character since I was limited to characters)…and that a couple of avid female birdwatchers come to the sanctuary and through a lot of comical banter (not so comical to the male) the women drive him off…however,  as any writer knows…sometimes the characters take over and other things happen…and it became a strange love story within some of those other elements…it surprised me, but in a good way. I titled my play, Bird Land.

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, and because I also love to direct, I had signed up to direct my play as well…which meant no sleep. Auditions came after breakfast (and TLC Productions who put on StageLab24, provided us, the seven writers, the directors, and the cast with excellent food and beverages the entire duration), and by 11 am – it was time to meet with my cast (Melissa Francis, Lori Ann Dick, & Pat McKabe) that I’d selected and start rehearsals. By 6 pm we had a break for dinner, and at 8 pm the plays went live to the public. It was an exhilarating experience, and one that I’m happy that I was a part of – even if I was at the theatre for over 27 hrs, and awake for a total of 49….

The take away is that time challenges aren’t something that writers should dread – sometimes they can force you into doing some pretty incredible work. And, even if you aren’t happy with what you have – you have a new piece that you didn’t have before…and possibly one that has taken you to places that you weren’t even planning to go! If you ever get a chance to take part in something like Masterpiece in a Day or StageLab24 – do. Even if it’s one time, but my hunch is…you’ll want to do more of it the next time you get a chance.

Here’s a video of the making of StageLab24 filmed by Anna Johnson: Video

Here are some writing prompts to get you writing…or searching for deadlines:

  1. Take a current event (i.e. the Oregon standoff) and write it into a story that you’re already working with, or use it as a jumping off place for your story or play...trust your characters, and let them lead you where they want to go.
  2. Write about your love affair with coffee…or your hatred of it. How did either come about? Was there ever an incident centered around coffee that you remember?
  3. Write about a memory from 30 years ago. Where were you in 1986? Who was in your life? What was your favorite song? What were you worried about? If you’re someone that wasn’t born 30 years ago, or were to young to remember…write a character that reflects on the year for some reason…
  4. Write these words into anything that you write: Freeze/Reunion/Sriracha.

If you get anything that you want to share, you can always share it in comments below, or contact me: lylanne[at]lylanne.com

See you in a week! Don’t forget to keep writing!

Lylanne

 

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