My 40th birthday is just a few weeks away. A milestone like this calls up a fair amount of self-assessment and navel-gazing. Working for myself means that I don't have a boss or supervisor to whom I offer reports of my progress or accomplishments. So in my case, I make lists to give myself an idea of how I'm doing.
So, how productive was I in my 30s? I didn't start any theatre companies (I started two in my 20s, along with a marketing newsletter for playwrights, and ran a nonprofit playwrights organization). In my 20s, I wrote a lot of screenplays and full-length plays, but in my 30s, my writing was more diverse.
Here's what I did in my 30s:
One novel (Tornado Siren, published)
Two drafts of a new novel (hope to finish it this year)
Three non-fiction book proposals. (none bought. Yet.)
Lots of rewrites of various scripts.
2 ½ full-length plays: Pieces of Whitey (produced), Constant State of Panic (incomplete), God’s Voice (workshopped but not produced),
1 one-act play: The Sky is Falling (produced and published)
16 ten-minute plays: (15 of them are published and/or produced)
1.5 screenplays (The Three Great Loves of Christopher J. Tomaski, 1/2 of another)
4 outlines/treatments for screenplays
a Dramatists Guild magazine article
Also I started:
the Rhombus playwrights group in Boston
the online playwright submission binge.
(tried to help start the Kansas City Playwrights Cooperative, but I think it didn’t make it.)
Published a bunch of issues of Market InSight for Playwrights (and then sold it).
854 play scripts
515 queries for plays
171 queries for screenplays
28 screenplay script submissions
75 queries for book manuscripts or book proposals
a handful of book manuscripts.
All these submissions resulted in:
145 productions and readings of my plays
27,058 people attended these shows (approx.) Another 4,000 or so heard my radio shows
8,675 high school students bought my published scripts (resulting in $6,396 for me) and used them in competitions
1 screenplay optioned, and it came very close to getting made.
All the book, play, and screenplay productions and sales earned me about $14,057
I read 463 books
I watched 199 plays and readings (this # is low, because I lived away from big cities for a while)
I watched 615 movies
Moved 5 times. (bought 5 houses, sold 7)
Adopted our son.
That's about it. I'm not quite sure what to make of it all. In terms of writing output, I generated 7 full-length works, which seems close to what I'd like. Moving as many times as we did makes it hard to be as productive as I'd like. And having babies in the house can also cut down on time.
Though I didn't earn much money, when I look at the number of people who saw my plays, I feel pretty content.
The truth is, I can always find people who are more prolific or more talented than I am. In the end, the trick for a writer is be simultaneously content that he's done as much as he could, and be determined to do more and better work in the future.
Now, I'm looking forward to some time to think about what might come in the next decade.