How Being a Bad Playwright Helped Me Rediscover My Creativity

If you had told the 10-year-old me that I would one day take a creative writing class for fun, I would’ve replied that you were crazy. Then I would’ve gone back to reading Harriet the Spy out loud to my American Girl dolls and jotting down their reactions in my Lisa Frank diary.

I suppose my dorky self was always assuming I would one day become cool. However, fifteen years later, I still find myself putting that goal off for another year or two. So I can do things like take a playwriting class at the local community center.

I almost didn’t take the class. It had been a solid four years, probably more, since I had written any fiction. The last time being a creative writing class I took at some point in college. Back when I still dreamed of being a novelist.

It’s Hard to be Creative Once Adulting Takes Over

But I never did write a novel. I wrote a twenty-five page short story that made the cute senior with the beard and tattoo-sleeve laugh—whether the laugh was an ironic or genuine one was never determined. Then I graduated and started a 9-to-5 office job two days later. Suddenly writing seemed less important than paying rent. Plus, there’s cooking food. And occasionally exercising. And attempting to use Tinder.

After that, I spent several years giving myself a guilt trip for my lack of creativity. Except sometime between that college semester where I carried a binder decorated with Emily Dickinson quotes and the first time I paid car insurance, writing a novel had ceased to be the dream.

I had since achieved more concrete goals—like buying furniture that wasn’t from Ikea and saving enough money for a trip to Europe. The thought of my name gracing the spine of a library book now seemed less a dream and more a hallucination of a past life.

Classroom Collaboration is a Must for Creative Souls

Yet, the need to create still remained. After years of blogging and writing articles for various internet publications, I knew I needed to try something different. But I was worried that I didn’t have it in me to write fiction anymore.

Even after paying for the class, I soothed myself with the reminder that no one had to know I was doing this. I could drop the whole thing any time. Nothing says adulting like knowing no one cares if you quit doing something you paid good money to do.

However, I showed up the first week of class, notebook in hand, and what remained of the creative portion of my soul remembered something that my brain had long forgotten. I love being in a classroom.

Most of us have this image in our minds of a writer hunched over their desk late at night, scribbling—or typing—away in solitude. However, the spark of creativity doesn’t ignite on its own. Collaboration, conversation, new experiences, or a change in routine are needed to get the fire started. Plus, even the very best writers benefit from hearing feedback on their work.

The Joy of Creation is Not in Being Good at It

I was a little hesitant at first to spend money on something I could probably teach myself, if I had the motivation to sit down and write on my own each night. However, I don’t have that motivation. And like so many other things in life, I knew taking this class would not be about the outcome, but the experience. It would be about pushing myself outside my comfort zone to do something I don’t naturally gravitate toward doing.

Besides stretching myself creatively, I got to meet new people. People outside of my usual social circle. Classmates who brought with them thoughts, life experiences, and feedback I never would’ve gotten writing in my room alone. An instructor who brought with him a knowledge of theater that far surpassed my own, along with timed exercises and goofy writing prompts I did not have the discipline or imagination to complete on my own.

Perhaps what I really needed to relearn in my post-college years was the joy of creating something without feeling the need to be good at it. With no grades and no tests, this class really was just for fun. For the joy of sitting down and scribbling words for some ridiculous writing prompt, just because I was asked to do it.

The Joy is Finding Your Outlet

I won’t pretend I didn’t get caught up in perfectionism at least once or twice during the class. I struggled with ending my play, and my first stab at it was complete garbage. When the feedback I received wasn’t all positive, I went home wondering why I was even doing this to myself. Surely there were more relaxing ways to spend my weeknights then forcing myself to write a mediocre play. How could I call myself a writer if I wasn’t even enjoying the process?

Then I wondered if I could somehow get a blog post out of all these feelings. Then I laughed at the irony of my own thought process.

I didn’t take the class because I dream of becoming a world-renowned playwright. I took the class because, for better or for worse, I’ll always be seeking an outlet for my creative side.  Deep down I’m still the girl who reads books out loud to her dolls, but somewhere along the way I stopped taking notes on their reactions. The responsibilities of adulthood reared their ugly heads. Now even on days when I’m balancing all my adulting tasks perfectly, I still long for more.

It’s Not about the End Goal, It’s the Process

That missing thing doesn’t have to be something that will make me rich or famous or completely change my life. I like my life. However, I crave new hobbies, new ways to stretch myself creatively, and new passions. A passion I didn’t have to be taught during my days with the Lisa Frank diary, but one I sometimes have to take a class to reclaim now. The muses don’t always strike at night when I’m typing alone at my keyboard, but they still beg to be heard.

Years from now I know I won’t remember all the nights I watched Netflix and went to bed early. But I will have the memories I made and the things I wrote. I will be glad I stretched myself to try something new. Even if the thing I created isn’t the greatest work I’ve ever done.

In fact, I hope it’s not the greatest work I’ll ever do. I hope in decades to come I look back at the play I wrote and think it’s terrible. Because that will mean I’ve continued to grow and pursue creativity for my own personal mastery. Because getting better at expressing myself creatively isn’t an end goal. It’s the enjoyment of the journey.

In the fall, I plan to return to the classroom for a more advanced playwriting course. Will I write more fiction in the interim? Only time with tell. But I do know this—the things I feel most apprehensive about are always the things worth doing. Being inspired doesn’t always mean finishing a perfect work by an exact deadline. It means having a drive for the creative thing that scares you most.


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