Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Inspiration, Deadlines & Candy Corn: Musings by Erin Bregman

After a weekend up in the California foothills, PF asked one of our Resident Playwrights, Erin Bregman, to write some thoughts about her writer's retreat. This is a sweet response, pun intended. 
When asked the dreaded question what inspires you to write?’, I immediately
pull out my ready-made, slightly scrappy retort: Deadlines. But if the
latest (and first!) Resident Playwrights Retreat reminded me of anything,
it’s that my oldest writing companion is not plain old last minute panic. It
is last minute panic infused with a faithful yet unpredictable

My relationship with writing on Sugar began in college, when my
writing-on-a-deadline routine started with a quick trip to the corner store
where I would purchase a small bag of jelly bellies. Thus armed, I would
return to my room and write, popping a jelly belly every time I got stuck. I
got stuck often. The test was, could I finish the assignment before the bag
was empty, or would I be left feeling sick on Sugar without having produced
anything worthwhile?

As my Productivity to Sugar-sick ratio dropped, I all but abandoned the
routine, replacing the jelly bellies with popcorn, then cereal, then tea. On
the occasions when we did tackle a project again together, Sugar and I were
always either one of two things: wildly successful, or absolute failures.

So it was that I sat myself down in front of a large bowl of candy corn at
the latest (and first!) Resident Playwrights Retreat with more than a little
trepidation. Now, I know candy corn is perceived as an untouchable to many
food-consuming people out there, but for some reason I find it irresistible.
I opened my notebook, and popped a candy corn. Sugar and I were back.

The thing about writing on Sugar is that it facilitates, at its best,
writing quickly and without over-thinking. Such a strategy can either write
your play for you in record time, or write you straight off a cliff. Sixty
minutes into my candy corn frenzy, I saw the cliff. From about 10,000 feet
below. It was abundantly clear I had gone in the wrong direction with this
draft, and would have to start over. That seemed like a lot of work for the
moment, so instead I grabbed another candy corn, stood up, and went to ask
the wise Jonathan Spector for advice.

My candy corn experience at the latest (and first!) Resident Playwrights
Retreat may have felt like a complete failure in the moment, but looking
back I would have to call it a huge success. In a mere sixty minutes I
scrapped an entire draft, and made the not so easy decision to go back to
the beginning and start over. The result? I now have a vastly improved,
completely re-worked play that is one giant step closer to being finished.
Thanks, Sugar. I owe you one.

Erin Bregman's play TVA KAMILA premiered at the 2010 Bay Area Playwrights Festival this past summer. To read more about Erin, and about our Resident Playwrights, visit:

1 comment:

Dim said...

Lovely to read something that comes from a human being, not some alien from the planet Dramaturg.