Last year’s winner, Ngiam Xin Wei, gives this year’s participants some advice.
If you’ve never done this before…
Around 2am, almost halfway into the 24-hour playwriting competition, you will find yourself staring blankly at an equally blank word document, and panic will begin to set in. Ideas, mostly ludicrous and (to your addled mind) entirely lacking in artistic merit will race through your brain, only to be discarded seconds after they appear. As the mental trash piles up, you will start to feel as if there is a big stone somewhere in your chest, sinking slowly down to the pit of your stomach, an emotion many describe as “despair.”
I describe this moment (don’t worry it doesn’t last too long) not to frighten you, but to reassure you – especially if this is the first time you are taking part in the competition – that panic is normal. It is just “part of the process” – that wonderful, miserable creative process. It is merely your body scaring you into staying awake longer. Pay no heed – sleep, more than panic, is a crucial part of the creative process.
Take comfort also in the fact that panic and despair play only bit parts in this 24 hour journey. Participants in the 2008 contest will attest to the endless supplies of fruit, drinks, and at one point, warm cookies available through the night (perhaps I should not “spoil market”). Since we were in Joo Chiat, all our meals were amazing. One of our stimuli was a pre-breakfast walking tour in our vicinity, and we breathed in the sweet morning air and felt happy to be alive (and a bit stressed about our unfinished play) as we watched the neighbourhood shake off sleep with hot kopi. I took part with two other friends, which makes the process less lonely. And of course there’s Robin, announcing impossible stimuli every four hours, indicating to you that time is running out, and that your task just got harder.?
But the best part is that, after all of that, 5 cups of coffee and 10 gooey cookies later, it’s just you and your writing. If you listen hard enough, you can hear your mind expanding. And it really doesn’t matter whether anyone else is sleeping or how long they sleep, or how fast they appear to be typing, or how anguished they look when they’re not, because the words on the page are your only benchmark, and the event is not really a competition anyway.?
So take a deep breath and jump in (hopefully not off the barrage).
Ngiam Xin Wei