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Great Expectations

No, that isn’t the story I rewrote from memory for the challenge this week! I’m lucky if I can remember where I put my glasses, let alone anything else, so this week has given my memory a much-needed kick start and I found myself looking through old notebooks in the hope of coming across a hidden gem.

What happened was I remembered the first time I took part in TLC and how I was quaking in my boots at the prospect of writing every day. I spent most of the first challenge determined to create interesting new pieces of theatre and was determined to put my all into every brief. I would read and reread each email and then start typing and not stop until I had submitted what I felt was my very best effort.

It was exhausting!

Looking back, I’m not entirely sure how I survived without an ulcer or insomnia.

During that first challenge I felt very proud of myself for writing something new every single day. I enjoyed the ability to discuss things on the Facebook group and the Forum; connecting with fellow writers was a new experience for me. I didn’t even feel comfortable referring to myself as a writer in those days; it felt too big and adulty for the act of sitting at my laptop and trying to make jokes or find words to rhyme with ‘carrot’…

Some days I would sit and stare into space for what seemed like forever or the piece that I wrote would simply refuse to take shape. Then there were times when the cartoon lightbulb glowed so brightly above my head that it lit the way from the title to ‘The End’ as smoothly as if I were taking dictation rather than creating from scratch.

The community of TLC and the highs and lows of the challenges are what I look forward to most over the course of the year but I have also learnt to pace myself and be kind.

I no longer put pressure on myself to create a work of life-changing genius every single day – thank goodness. The expectation now is that I will work on whatever idea pops into my head and try to mould it into the best it can be. Then I submit and move on. I try to go out for a walk, watch something on TV, show interest in my teenager and his football card collection and generally switch off until the next brief lands in my inbox.

These challenges are, as Sebastian always reminds us, a marathon and not a sprint. Some of what I write during TLC will never get looked at again and some will be brought out at a later date and polished until it shines.

Now that the end of this particular challenge is in sight, we can look back and be proud of what we’ve achieved so far this month and look forward to the roller-coaster ride to the finish line. Pace yourselves, breathe, take breaks, get your sleep and remember that the only expectation is that you create something new, press submit in time and give yourself a big pat on the back, and even that's only if you're on the Timed Route.

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