Why the opportunities you don’t take are just as important as the ones you do

Editor Jennifer Richards looks at what happens when faced with a list of opportunities and deadlines you’re panicking you won’t make…

One of the brilliant things playwriting has over other forms of writing is how much more accessible it is. Being such a community-based media means there are always directors/writers/producers/actors searching for collaborators.  You can see just from quickly scrolling through LPB weekly round-up how many opportunities there are for playwrights.

Of course not all these opportunities are suitable for everyone, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get what you apply for, but there’s an encouragement of new writing in theatre that, to me, feels much stronger than in other media.

But sometimes seeing all these opportunities come up can be pretty overwhelming.  And I’ve definitely found myself staring at the weekly-round up, with the deadlines jumping out at me and making me panic that I’m not going to write something in time to apply. Which stops me from writing anything. Then I don’t go for any of the opportunities.

Deadlines and opportunities should be motivational tools, rather than something we use to beat ourselves up. When I first started applying for new writing nights, what I really needed was for someone to tell me it’s okay to miss an opportunity. In fact, it’s healthy.

Image by Stephen Dan via Flickr CC

As I’m sure is the case with many of you, I have a job outside of playwriting that limits how much time I can spend writing. It doesn’t make me any less of a writer because I don’t apply for every brilliant opportunity that’s posted. Or if I even take a break from writing every now and again when my creativity’s a bit lacking.

I’ve found it’s better to find a few opportunities that really excite me and put more effort focusing on those, producing a script that I’ve taken time over and just given myself some room to breathe when writing it. It’s not good for my writing, or for my mental health, to push myself to meet every deadline and apply for everything.

On LPB, we love listing as many opportunities on here as possible, but not to guilt you into thinking you need to apply for everything, because otherwise you’re just wasting all these great opportunities. We do it to show you what amazing things are out there, and we want to give you the chance to decide what’s most suited to you and your work – which took me a while to figure out!

By all means, find opportunities that excite you and go for those, but don’t burn yourself (and your creativity) out. It’s rare to be told not to go for opportunities, but the importance is in deciding which opportunities to invest your time and your energy in rather than spreading yourself and your work too thin.  Both your writing and your mental health will thank you for it.

One thought on “Why the opportunities you don’t take are just as important as the ones you do”

  1. I think it was Robert De Niro who said that talent is in the choices. He wasn’t referring to deadlines, but deciding which projects to focus your energies on. You never really know for sure (at least, I don’t). But the few things I’ve written that turned out how I had hoped came about by diving deep. Choosing what you’re really most passionate and obsessed with is probably always a good bet, even if it means spending more time, and missing a few deadlines.

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