There comes a point in the development of a project when your research, pre-draft exploratory backstory and character work, and your plot outlining reaches a point that you know it’s time to plunge into draft.

When you reach this threshold, it’s like you’re standing on the edge of a vast wilderness, an unknown domain that you somehow have to cross to reach the other side–your distant and often somewhat hazy destination at the far end.

On your back is a pack you’ve carefully prepared filled with supplies and other necessities for the journey.  And in your hand is your road map that you’ve carefully developed that hopefully will see you through to the other side.  So, being as prepared as you can be, you take a deep breath and set forth.

At first your eyes hit on your map every few hundred yards.  Predetermined sign posts appear ahead of you and around you and you feel pretty good about the reliability of your pre-charted course.  Then all of a sudden you climb a small hill and a vast vista opens up to you that you didn’t anticipate and isn’t on your map.  You stand there in awe of the unexpected and marvel at the beauty of the landscape.  And then, far off, you see what looks like a river that isn’t supposed to be there.  And to your surprise, in front of you are the signs of an old trail half hidden in the bush heading off into the view in a new, totally off-course direction.  

Now what?  Do you follow your urge to explore this intriguing and beckoning detour or stick to the prepared route that is telling you to continue on your prearranged course?

If you want your journey and what you discover along the way to be original, fresh, and full of surprises, you head off on that old obscured trail towards that distant uncharted river.  You tuck your map in your pocket, knowing that it’s always there if you need to backtrack and get back on your planned route or use it to find your way back to it at a point further down the line.  

What’s important, critical even, is that as you journey through your wilderness you allow surprises to confront you and that you give yourself permission to explore them.  If you’ve done your homework and pre-journey planning, you won’t ever really run the risk of getting hopelessly lost.  To the contrary, you open the possibility of discovering new and exciting experiences as you push through for the first time.

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I’m the Program Director of the low-residency MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen being offered by the New Hampshire Institute of Art.  Our next residency runs January 3-11, 2016 and we are now considering applications for starting the program with our July 2016 residency that runs July 18-28.  I’m also a playwright and screenwriter, producing partner in my production company Either/Or Films (The Sensation of Sight and Only Daughter), and a professional script consultant