Writing is a real job

Oops! I’ve been regretting this blog!

But not without reason-- I’ve been busy writing, so I’m hoping that there’s some leeway available to a playwright whose Playwright Blog has been neglected because he’s been so busy writing plays.

Yes, plays, plural. I’ve always been comfortable with multiple projects in my head. It’s useful to me when feeling sluggish in my progress on one thing to switch to another thing. (I don’t know what would happen if ever I became sluggish in my progress on everything. Let’s pretend we didn’t even think about that.) Generally, difficulty in my writing comes from standing too close to it, overthinking little things until they grow and become the big things. When that happens, switching over to something else moves my minds eye to an entirely different forest, and having my face mere inches from a particularly troublesome tree is no longer the issue.

It’s not without risks, of course. What if a particularly worthy project that’s going well is forced to take a back seat to one that has a more pressing deadline? What if an idea for something wonderful happens to come along, only to be ignored because my plate is already overflowing?

I suppose those potential problems (and others) are all out there waiting for me… but it’s not as though I pondered various ways of working and then decided on this one as the one that makes the most sense. Writing doesn’t make sense, certainly not as a career. It’s an unreasonable and entirely unrealistic proposition: “I think I’ll dream things up and write them down and they’ll be so good that other people, strangers even, will insist on paying me for the right to present them.”

That’s crazy.

So, safe to say, once you’ve embarked on an enterprise already lacking in sanity, you may as well go about it in the way that best pleases you. It pleases me to have different stories at different phases all in my head at the same time.

At this moment, those pieces are:

Food, Clothing and Shelter. We’ll be holding our first round of auditions next week, and that’s always an exciting time-- a shift in approach from the relatively solitary typing phase to the working with wonderful collaborators phase. Of course, it’s been the nature of this residency that I’ve had the pleasure of working with collaborators for much of the process. The Firehouse Working Group and the New Works Weekend have both given me waypoints by which to steer toward this point. We now have a draft that, while by no means finished, is strong enough for us to begin the work of rehearsing actors, a process during which the script will change quite a bit more.

A Week at the Havens. The other piece I’m crafting as a part of my residency. I’m not quite yet at the point where I type “Lights up on DEVON, speaking directly out.” But I’m close. I keep scribbling little bits of conversation, speeches, and ideas; contractions are still twenty minutes apart, so it’s not time to rush to the hospital yet, but I’m pacing.

Miss Connie, Exposed! This is a comedy about a television psychic who is caught out as a fraud; I drafted it with particular actors in mind, and we had a nice reading hosted by Richmond Triangle about a year and a half ago, and then I had to put it on the back burner, but it’s still simmering.

Richmond Headliners. This isn’t so much a play as it is a revue of scenes and speeches that I’m creating with the members of the Working Group, using headlines from local news sources as the jumping off points for scenes that will view various current events through our own twisted lenses. Richmond Headliners will present at the Firehouse sometime between Labor Day and Christmas

The Charitable Sisterhood _________________. The third in the very successful series that has sold out Hanover Tavern many times. I know what the basic situation will be, and I think I might have a title, but it’s too early to decide for sure. It’s going to be funny and sharp and hopefully a nice completion to what I’m thinking of as the Charitable Trilogy.

(title not ready) is a drama that, like A Week at the Havens, keeps whispering to me and revealing itself in brief scraps of conversations, arguments, speeches, and images. All I can tell you about it is that when it comes time to write it, it’s going to be good.

(another title not ready) is a really great idea that a valued colleague just shared with me. It might be perfect for the Firehouse. I haven’t written a word of it yet but when I heard the idea my brain started going a mile a minute. I think it’ll be great fun.

(Contest Entrant not yet titled) is not at all certain, but it’s the kind of thing you can’t ignore if you do this for a living. The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia is offering a series of $25,000 prizes to plays that have some connection to the Shakespeare pieces they offer each season. That’s one of the biggest prizes in the country (playwriting contests tend to offer much more humble prizes, with something like $2,000 being the normal high end.) It’ll bring all the heavy hitters out of the woodwork and the odds of winning will be steep, but it feels pretty foolish not to take a swing at it, especially if you have an idea. And I do.

Oh, yeah, I’m also working on a novel, a draft of which I hope to finish by summer.

Hamilton features the repeated question asked of its protagonist: “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” I sympathize, and I have an answer: Because I am. We all are. We’re given only a certain number of days, and we don’t know how many we get. I’ll spend mine writing, thank you. :)

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