Writing About Writing

By Jessica Abrams

Whenever I submit a play to a festival or fellowship and that cunning little box pops up in the submission form asking to discuss what you hope to achieve if awarded this fellowship or what, specifically, would you like to work on in your play?, a sinking feeling starts to creep into my stomach because I have no idea what I’m going to say.  I do know that it will require pulling something out of thin air that will take more effort than the actual writing of the play did.

In short, I will have bad flashbacks of high school English all over again.

A little about me and my relationship to institutionalized learning: I pretty much hated it.  Sure, I loved when the teacher asked us to be creative and use the material on the reading list to write our own interpretation of the story; but to discuss and dissect something as directed by someone who was often no more interesting than the cardboard holding the pages together caused me to compulsively doodle or get lost in the hairstyle of the person sitting in front of me.  I never understood why we were being led through the beautiful forest and, instead of simply going where instinct took and enjoying the experience, had to keep our heads down and study the compass the whole time.

That’s what these questions feel like; and I’m completely willing to admit these are very much my own issues coming up.

How to answer questions like, “What do you hope to achieve if awarded this fellowship?”  I hope to work with great people who can help me take my writing to the next level.  “What would you like to work on in your play?”  Anything that is keeping it from being the fully-formed, fleshed-out piece of theatre that I originally set out to create.  I don’t mean to be snarky or arrogant.  I really don’t.  I am genuinely flummoxed by these questions, especially when they require an entire paragraph of answer.

But last week I filled out one of these forms.  It took three days.  And something happened: I found myself taking the time to really give these questions some thought — not just so that I would sound erudite and thoughtful and everything that, on a good day, I’d like to think I am, but so that maybe, just maybe, I would find something that I could take with me regardless of the outcome of the application process.

And maybe, in the end, that’s what I hope to get out of this: learning.  A little or a lot.  About me, about others.  About what we do and why and how we do it.  And how that learning can help us grow — not just into the artists we want to be, but into the people we want to be.

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