Dust yourself off.

Those two short plays I submitted to the playwriting group? Yeah, they weren’t ready.

I’ll be honest — I had my fingers crossed, but when I got the feedback about where they fell short, it wasn’t a surprise. After all, it was the same feedback I’d received two years ago. And did I do my homework in the meantime? Nope.

They sat.

They collected dust.

They were a good dream, but a dusty dream isn’t much more than a dust bunny at the end of the day. You know?

I wanted them off my plate, I wanted them submitted. I wanted to say I finished them, and I suppose I did…the first draft, that is. Because obviously they weren’t a final draft, despite that being the name of my trusty writing program.

Some things were really good about them. Their dialogue, which can be hard for many people, was good. What did they lack? Conflict.

Interestingly, my life lacks conflict, too. I despise it. I run from it. And it’s the very thing I couldn’t wrap my head around in those two short plays.

In truth, they were meant to be longer, full-length plays. And to submit them, I just wrapped things up where I’d left off — which means that the arc and all the character development died slow deaths. Was the writing funny? Sure. Did things move along? Yes. But funny stories do not successful plays make. It just makes them partial tales that either leave the reader confused, wanting more, asking “so what?” or wondering “why should I care?”

I think mine checked all four boxes. Woops.

I returned to the playwriting group today, yet again as a guest, but with new eyes — and new ears. I listened to the plays that were read and picked apart by the members, and I took more notes than I ever have before. Instead of listening for enjoyment, I was hanging on every word to see if I could identify the conflict. The drama. The turning point. What was at stake.

Fortunately, I could. If I was still at a loss afterwards, I told myself I’d throw in the towel. Instead, I think I’m choosing — for the time being, anyway — to dust off the brain, hunker down and revisit my content.

The crappy thing about getting the feedback, however, was that — at least for two or three days — it called into question everything else I’ve been doing. Maybe my collection of personal essays that I’ve been writing is really terrible work. Maybe this blog is horrible. Maybe this is all nothing more than a time-filler, and it’ll never be anything more than that.

And right when I let all those thoughts into my head, I gave them the finger. I haven’t spent more than a year writing this blog for nothing — it has a purpose. For me, it’s practice — plain and simple. And I haven’t been writing personal essays because I’m bored — I write them because I believe in them. And when I finish the plays — correctly, next time — they might be good enough for me to be called a “member,” but they may not be everyone’s cup of tea at the end of the day. And that’s fine by me, because just as two people may not be a match, the same thing goes with writing or any other art form. They’re not for everyone.

Today I am thankful for listening to the voice in my heart and head that told me to quiet the negative thoughts, and to get back up, dust myself off and start all over again. It seems like a daunting task, but at least I feel like I have a roadmap now when before I did not; at least there’s definitive feedback instead of being paralyzed by wondering “is it good enough?”

No. It wasn’t. But it can be if I want it to be.

And I do. 

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