Don’t Underestimate Your Writing

Don’t underestimate your writing.

I learned this lesson recently. It was late December, and the submission window for entering a script in a theatre festival in New York was rapidly approaching. It was a festival that produced one of my plays in 2017 — my first ever production in New York City. It was a big deal to me.

Since I had a modest, one-year history at the festival, I wanted to submit again for the 2018 version. But I ran into an issue. What script? Last year it was an easy decision. It was a script I really liked. It was about issues current in the news. It was timely, funny, and profound at the same time. I thought it was one of my best, so I was delighted when it was chosen.

But for this year, I just felt like I didn’t have a script that was as good as 2017. I hemmed and hawed and eventually decided, on a whim, to send off a script I had written a while back but never did anything with it. I re-polished it and sent it off before the December 31 deadline.

I had no expectations.

Then it happened. Earlier this week I received an email from the theatre in New York saying they loved the script I sent and wanted to produce it for their June festival. I was shocked. They loved the script? They chose the script? I had no idea that it would have been chosen.

After this happened, I read it over with another person, and this person told me how much she liked the script. Suddenly, it was starting to grow on me. A script I thought was just “ok” was really not that bad. I started seeing it for its uniqueness, its quirkiness, its unusual story. It started sounding funny to me as I read it and …

What’s going on?

Suddenly, the simplest of principles once again smacked me in the forehead–everyone has a different perspective. This is not something new. I know this. As a novelist whose novels have been reviewed by many individuals, I know that each person brings their own take and opinions when assessing a creative work. I’ve seen them all–“Brilliant” and “I couldn’t finish it.”

So I learned a lesson: just get the work out there!

It may be liked more than you think. It may have hidden potential that you can’t see. It may also fall flat on its face. But I’d rather have it fall flat on its face than live a digital death on some hard drive.

Guess what I’ve been doing this week? Sending more of my plays and writings to various contests around the world. Nothing may become of any of them. But you never know until you try.

Don’t underestimate your own writing. Put in the time, give it all you got, then release it to the wind and let it float where it may.



Reflections on Writing: Are they good enough?

I’ve just finished writing a collection of short dramatic sketches which will be performed as my new Christmas show, “MORE Tales of Wonder: Another RLT Christmas,” this December.

My immediate reaction to the pieces is rather muted. I don’t know what to think about them, and I’m sure I don’t really know what I got in these pieces.

When I compare them to last year’s “Tales of Wonder,” they don’t seem to be as good. But I have to remind myself that my opinion of those is tainted by their live performances which were exceptionally well received last year. The real question is: what did I think about last year’s pieces before we produced them?

This is one of the most difficult parts of the writing process, knowing what you have after you’ve finished. Of course, different people will assess them in different ways, so I’m mainly writing at the wind here, trying to understand a process which is mainly incomprehensible.

I’ve found that most writing consists more of a workman effort rather than heavenly inspiration. There were very few “ah-hah” moments in writing these, most of them being slowly whittled away with version after version until the storylines and characters become more visible. This is probably one of the reasons why I feel nervous about these. If they lack inspiration, will they not be inspirational?

That’s not the way it typically works. Writing is about plowing a the field, planting the seeds, and slowly cultivating the crops; hoping that the mature plant will produce a strong yield. But there are no guarantees in writing (as in farming). You just have to do the work, put in the effort, stick with what has worked in the past, and then leave the results for others to assess.

Do I think we’ll have a good Christmas show this December? Based on track record, yes. Based on these rough scripts I’ve been writing in July? I don’t know.

Are they good enough? They are never good enough. But you still have to stop and move on to something else. That’s what writers do.


A Rarity: Completely Unbiased Feedback about Your Writing

It’s rare to be in a situation where one receives detailed and completely unbiased feedback of one’s writing. Sure, unknown reviewers leave ratings and reviews for my novels, but not many leave a score and give an assessment of the overall thoughts of an author’s writing.

I received that recently and found it very interesting and encouraging.

I submitted a play entitled “A Writer’s Satire” to the Pittsburgh New Works Festival. And while it was not one of the plays chosen for production (out of the 250 submitted), I did receive interesting feedback from two anonymous judges who evaluated my script.

The first one gave it a “recommend highly” and an overall score of 75/80. Here were this judge’s thoughts:

pitt   new work 1

Here’s what the second one said. This judge gave it a 70/80 – “recommend.”

pitt   new work 2

A couple points I find interesting on this one. This person liked the plot better than the other judge, but gave me slightly lower marks on both character development and dialogue. The judge was also annoyed with the format that I chose for that piece. I admit, I didn’t use standard American format for that play simply because I find it more time consuming to write in that format and I must have been too lazy to switch it over when I sent it in. I wonder if that would have affected the scores? It certainly seems like it might have. My bad!

I also find it interesting that this judge calls me a “young playwright.” Fascinating, and not completely untrue. While I’m not as young as I once was and no-one will ever confuse me for a youngster, I am still a rather young playwright. I wrote my first play about seven years ago. I became serious about my writing about four years ago. I’m still learning. I have more than a half-dozen full-length plays under my belt and more than 50 short plays finished. So while I have a lot of experience, I am young in playwright years. I don’t mind that comment.

Overall, I was thrilled with what the judges thought about this piece. It’s a piece I really like, and it will be produced in Kuala Lumpur as part of the Short & Sweet Festival Malaysia in October. I look forward to see what they will do with it.

It’s always an encouragement to be validated in one’s craft by anonymous industry insiders. Now I just have to keep writing. I wonder what will come out next.