Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Be a Playwright - Or... Why Would You Want To?

Two posts making the circuit today.

Both of them are about being a playwright in the Big Apple.

On HotReview, Barbara Hammond talks about the sacrifices one makes to keep at the stage writing game in New York City:

Learn how to cut your own hair. Adjust to Duane reading glasses when you really require a prescription. Take on boarders (don't call them roommates after thirty-five) to pay your rent. Find a way to earn your living in a way that is dignified, fulfilling and completely flexible to the demands of your writing (warning: bartending has a shelf life that diminishes with fertility). Give yourself one more year before you go to Los Angeles. Again.


Meanwhile, playwright Matt Freeman has a prescription of his own:

For me, what can I say? I work in an office. I've worked in offices since 1999. Temp work, permanent work. Currently, I actually have an office that overlooks the Governor's Island. I have a tie. I have business cards. I have a company Blackberry. I'm fine with it. In fact, I like where I work - they do good things here. I strive for success as a playwright, whatever that may mean. I'm undaunted by setbacks, I have publications and reviews, I feel like I have the respect of my peers. I aim for bigger stages, think big, believe in my talent and the importance of perseverance. I don't see myself wearing a tie forever, and I won't lie, there are mornings I wake up and look in the mirror and go "Again? Really?"

Then again, I've lived on next-to-nothing and let me tell you: it's fairly uninspiring. I didn't find it freeing and fun. I found it to be a constant weight on my mind and chest.


In the spirit of this soul searching, I would recommend a recent tongue-in-cheek column by New York Times editor Bill Keller, in which he asks: Why the hell would somebody want to write a book?

Every month, it seems, some reporter drops by my office to request a leave of absence to write a book. I patiently explain that book-writing is agony — slow, lonely, frustrating work that, unless you are a very rare exception, gets a lukewarm review (if any), reaches a few thousand people and lands on a remaindered shelf at Barnes & Noble. I recount my own experience as a book failure — two incompletes, and I’m still paying back a sizable advance with a yearly check to Simon & Schuster that I think of not as a burden but as bail.

But still the reporters — and editors, too — keep coming to sit in my office among the teetering stacks of Times-written books that I mean to read someday and to listen politely to my description of book-writing Gethsemane, and then they join the cliff-bound lemmings anyway.



How's that for an aggregation? I'm expecting HuffPost will be calling to offer me a job any minute!

1 comment:

Freeman said...

Thanks for the good word!