Thursday, February 4, 2016

A writer's lament

I've noticed lately that, as a writer, or more specifically, a playwright, I've had the urge to quit on a daily basis for a few months now. Maybe it's because I'm working on a script that I find particularly challenging; not the good kind of "this is so exhilarating" challenging but the kind where you stare at the page for ten minutes, write one short line of dialogue, and wait another ten minutes for a vague idea of what the next line will be.

The first almost complete draft I wrote of this script was surprisingly easy, probably because I was vomiting every cliché known to man onto the page. When I reread it, I thought: "Well, good. Now that this stinking turd is out of the way, I can get down to writing the real thing." But the real thing is really f*cking hard. Once I stripped away all the predictable crap and was left with space for originality, the empty whiteness of the blank page was staring back at me, as if to say: "I don't know if you have what it takes." 

Why I ever thought this would be easy, I don't know. It's excruciating. You're probably thinking: "Then why don't you just quit?" The answer I wish were true is that I "have" to write; I can't not write. The real answer is: "My ego won't let me quit." Where would I be without my delusions of grandeur? My daydreams of worldwide fame and amassed fortune? I've devoted my entire life to developing my tortured artist persona. How could I possibly exist as anything else? I can't abase myself to mere mortal status. I've convinced myself I have a unique voice that should be heard, if only I could get my mental ass off the proverbial couch.

Obstacles to my creativity also arise because outside forces constantly limit me to wading in a cesspool of mediocrity, my brain floating about in a formaldehyde-filled jar like a relic of some distant past when it mattered if I used it. After a while, my instrument atrophies, and I have to reeducate myself in its proper use, if only to claim the amassed fortune of my vivid imagination.

I read an excellent blog post on recently about creativity and I was very grateful to have found it. It basically stated that if you want to write something, or be creative in any way with the intention of producing an end product and sharing it with an audience, just f*cking do it and shut up already. No one cares whether you write it or not, so if you want to do it, then go right ahead and stop waiting around for someone's approval; also, stop making excuses for not doing it.

It was a sobering read. I mean, no one gives a shit if I finish my play or not. No one gives a shit if it gets produced or not. Ironically, I found this out when I actually had a show produced. I was thrilled that my script would finally see the light of day. I was hoping for a huge, life-changing mega-hit. It turned out to be a mild success. I got some great feedback and, in general, people seemed to like it. Then it closed, and that was it. Nothing changed. Nothing earth-shattering happened. I wasn't suddenly in demand. The numerous rejections continued. So why keep going?

I suppose because anything worth doing isn't easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. Although, sometimes it does feel like everyone is trying to be a writer, so where does that leave me? Surrounded by thousands, if not tens of thousands of others with the same idea, or better ideas, than me. Sure, I've heard the oft-repeated advice to "find my own voice" and keep writing about what inspires me, but if no one's interested, isn't it like a tree falling in the forest? Does anybody hear?

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