Coping with competitions

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c_nordlander
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Coping with competitions

Postby c_nordlander » Sun Jul 24, 2011 3:24 pm

Not a column, as much as a rant. Hope it doesn't sound too self-centred: I'm talking about my own experiences, of course, but feel free to add your own.

I'm mostly no good at writing for competitions. (I say "mostly", because the SFFC competitions seem to be the exception; it's inspired me to write some of the fanfics I'm most proud of, though even that was usually an arduous process). But most of the time, whenever I find a writing competition prompt, I decide to write for it and my inspiration just shuts down. I just don't seem able to write on command. If the competition has any kind of set theme, I can never come up with anything. (If it doesn't, it's usually not so much of a problem, because I have plenty of short stories already lying around, but it can be if it's in a format I don't write so much. Stage plays, for example.) I can't make the ideas come. The presence of a set theme and a deadline seems to paralyse my writing-brain.

Anyone else have the same problem? Anyone know how to solve it?
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"
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AssistantCrone
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Re: Coping with competitions

Postby AssistantCrone » Sun Jul 24, 2011 6:26 pm

What you describe is one of the reasons I'm not a pro (that and my general personality). I, too, find it very difficult to draw on command if the idea is not inspiring. I tend to draw stuff that breaks into my head and knocks things over until I comply, like so.

A writing prompt can spark ideas, but it also limits your control. I'd suggest that you don't discount set themes altogether, because you may come across prompts that glare at you until you write them (like the SFFC themes), but no problem if you work best with your original ideas. You won't enter and win every competition that way, but trying to force art will rupture your art hole.
"Now, I know art is all about expressing ourselves, but today we're going to express ourselves by getting it right." --DB
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Gulliver63
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Re: Coping with competitions

Postby Gulliver63 » Sun Jul 24, 2011 6:45 pm

I don't know if I've done much on command. I must share that most of the stories that you've read of mine have come to me while vacuuming a huge high school gymnasium as a janitor. Something about having that stupid backpack vacuum on me that just got the wheels turning. Now that I've switched jobs again, I'll have to see if anything changes. Rupture in the art hole...that's a really nasty Polaroid.... ;D
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Re: Coping with competitions

Postby missy_misery » Sun Jul 24, 2011 8:16 pm

You know what I find helps me? Setting aside a little time every day to write. I find it makes my words flow more smoothly and then I really CAN write on-demand if I need to.
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Re: Coping with competitions

Postby Gulliver63 » Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:14 am

This brings up even more questions...how do you get started? It's rare that I just sit in front of the keyboard and start writing. I usually start with an idea in mind, and I know where I'm going with it. If given a topic, say "Bender gets married," I'll kick that around like a commercial art idea and then get going on it. Does anyone just sit in front of the keys and just start writing something? That would be interesting - I should try it. "We're Just Super" started entirely from a cartoon that I drew. An idea just hits me...I can't explain it better than that.
"We are today's creatures, locked in tomorrow's double feature..."
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c_nordlander
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Re: Coping with competitions

Postby c_nordlander » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:00 am

I usually get the ideas a long time in advance and let them mature a bit while working on other stuff. I usually only start writing them when I have at least a rough outline of the events.

@Missy: I admire you if it's that easy for you. I set aside hours of writing-time every day, and it works wonders, but it doesn't make it any easier to write on demand.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"
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SirMustapha
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Re: Coping with competitions

Postby SirMustapha » Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:42 am

I know there are immense differences in different forms of art, but sometimes some concepts and principles apply to many different cases. One of the most common exercises in theater classes is to make students improvise little scenes given a few constraints; for example, words or phrases selected randomly or cut out from conversations by the students themselves, newspaper stories and so on. We don't make them "on the spot": we are given a few minutes to create the set up, and then act it out. It's absolutely under pressure and on demand, but just as we have constraints on one side, we have total freedom in other areas, so it's a great exercise to train spontaneity of creation and imagination.

Does it apply to writing? I think it does. My skill in conceiving those scenes and situations definitely improved since I started taking the course over an year ago, my imagination is sharper and my capacity of connecting different ideas has increased, and I don't think that would have happened so easily and so quickly if it wasn't for the intensely free and creative environment of the classes and the smart, collaborative groupwork. And I dare say that anyone can learn that and improve, and I am confident such exercises and activities can apply in other arts. And, of course, just like anything else in life, you got to work on it.
"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles"

-- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
c_nordlander
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Re: Coping with competitions

Postby c_nordlander » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:08 pm

That is very good advice! I'll see if I can do that.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"
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missy_misery
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Re: Coping with competitions

Postby missy_misery » Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:40 am

Perfect advice, Fernie! I'd never thought of that.
Now known as Lisabella! (Or Missy.  Missy's good.)

Creator of the Waving Universe

Crack!Fic, The Marge Simpson Way: "Just then, Sir Lancelot rode up on a white horse and saved Joan of Arc.  They got married and lived in a spaceship.  The end." - Tales from the Public Domain, "Hot Child In The City"

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