The thing about writing is that ideas come from everywhere and anywhere – that’s why all writing advice ever advised suggests carrying a notebook everywhere you go. I personally have two or three different ideas for different stories, novels and comics bubbling in my brain at any one time. I probably write down around 80%, and get round to executing less than half. I don’t have the time to focus on all of them, so I have to pick and choose the ones that will work best – or sometimes, the ones that will fit in with a specific brief or theme.
If you want to get published (and of course you want to get published, seeing your name in print is awesome unless it’s on a utility bill or court summons) you will probably find yourself submitting stories, poems or plays to a high volume of journals and competitions. Some of these are open to any kind of work as long as it fits with the style of the publication, but others will have specific themes and you’ll find yourself writing something brand new because you don’t have anything that quite fits in with it.
Reader, I am ruminating on what to write for one such very specific theme RIGHT NOW. It is the specific theme of Tim Henman. My good friends Andrew and Ross, who you may remember from my completely unbiased review of their sellout* Edinburgh Fringe show Is This Poetry?, have lately set up a brand new spoken word podcast called Lies, Dreaming and they are looking for submissions on the theme of Tim Henman. There are ten days left to do this, incidentally, so if the mention of Tim’s name has set your mind cogs spinning I would urge you to put something together. You can hear a handy explanation of how to record your submission by clicking on this SoundCloud player:
Anyway, I have no real opinions on Timothy Henry “Tim” Henman, OBE (a retired professional tennis player who we all slag off in the UK for being rubbish on the grounds he never won Wimbledon even though he was number four in the world), and he is arguably not the most inspiring person in the world (although to be fair I’ve never seen a completely definitive ranking). I assume that’s why Ross and Andrew chose him – they are contrary like that.
However, I do have a personal goal of trying my hand at writing a picture book script by the end of 2015, so I thought I might use this podcast as a practice run. If you think about it, most picture books are only about 500 words – short enough to fit into a five minute section on a spoken word podcast. They are also designed to be read aloud, which fits in with the ethos of a spoken word podcast. And they are often about simple activities that children can understand, like being an internationally renowned tennis player. Well, two out of three etc.
So, my thought was I would come up with a picture book script relating to Tim (possibly ‘the Tim Henman Who Came To Tea’ or ‘The Very Hungry Tennis Player’) to get to grips with the form, and then I’ll do one of my own ideas after I’ve had that dry run. Whether it works, or fits in with the podcast, is another thing entirely. However, the only way to get your work out there is to put it out there. This is the best way to make this particular theme work for me.
Have you ever tried to ruthlessly manipulate a submission theme for your own diabolical ends? Let me know how it went in the comments!
*it was free and unticketed