Sunday, January 22, 2012

Creativity Bred by Pressure

Last night, upon returning to campus, I went straight to the performance portion of Truman's 24-Hour Theater event.

For the uninitiated:

24-hour theater is an event where, predictably, a group of students puts together a production in 24-hours. Four students begin writing a script at 8:00 Friday night, and then they move into production -- rehearsal, set construction, costume and prop construction, etc. -- until performance time at 8:00 Saturday evening.

It's kind of like the NaNoWriMo of putting on theater. Nobody expects it to be award-winning. They just expect it to be done.

Now, many of you know at this point of my professional admiration of Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (or at least you should). There both a couple of no-nonsense writers who are in it for the long-haul and view writing as a business. Each of them maintains a blog where they regularly discuss the business side of writing in uncompromising terms, from the perspective of full-time writers who've been involved in the business and watching it develop for 30 years.

In other words, these are folks you listen to, even if you disagree with them.

Dean has a remarkable post on writing speed, where he discusses how the creative side of the brain works under pressure and time constraints and such. It's well worth a read, as it's changed the way I approach my writing. Particularly in the day-to-day sense.

Now, if I ever doubted what Dean was saying in that post above (which I did initially, and still sometimes question), I have to say that going to see the 24-hour theater production helped to dispel many of them. It truly is amazing what this group of STUDENT thespians was able to put together in the space of 24-hours.

Sure, it's no Emmy-winning musical or anything. The script was simple (and occasionally redundant), the set was sparse (but effective), and there weren't any exceptionally complicated moments of spectacle. But it worked! It was entertaining, had a neat premise, held to a decent structure, and played well to its venue and audience.

I'm almost certain the writers and other members of the team weren't consciously thinking about all of those elements (and more) as they raced through the production process. But the years and years of storytelling techniques that we pick up subconsciously by reading and watching stories throughout our lives came through in that wild rush to GET IT DONE.

(Just like Dean says.)

So I want to thank everyone involved in 24-hour theater for showing me that last night. It really was a clear example and an impressive reminder that the things I've been learning over the past year and a half are true. And it's encouraged me to continue believing that maybe something worthwhile can actually come out of my continued droning as I tap away at these keys (when I'm not trying so hard, anyway).

And for any of you reading this who are uncertain or embarrassed about the things you write or the way your write or the way it comes out, don't be. See Dean above. See 24-hour theater above. It's never going to be perfect, but if you trust your brain to do its job it has a good chance of still being good.

(Inspiration = fail?)

As for the rest of you...well, I'm not sure what you're doing here, I guess. Maybe you find me entertaining. If so, awesome! I'm glad if I brought a smile to your face.

So, until next time...
-josh k.

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