Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughts Not to Think. (Don't read this list.)

There are lots of rational reasons to be discouraged and depressed as a writer of plays and novels.  There are 75-100 new MFA playwrights graduating every year, and nowhere near that many new slots for full-length plays on professional stages.  It's harder than ever to find an agent for playwrights, because the money keeps shrinking.  So many books are published every year that it's getting harder and harder for a new book to stand out.  Because it's harder to make money in publishing, publishers are tending to bid on books with clear blockbuster appeal, and the midlist book (and author) is dying a not-so-gradual death. 

Keeping your spirits up in the face of the business climate in our art forms is pretty tough.  I'm a pretty up-beat guy, most of the time, but once I start looking at the climate outlined above, it's easy for other, completely unhelpful thoughts to creep in.

Here are some thoughts that will not help you.  Don’t think them.  Seriously, don’t even read this list.

  • I’m XX years old.  I had my chance, it’s all downhill from here.  I peaked in 19XX.  Writing is a young person’s game
  • My friend K. just got a book deal/production/residency.  For $XXX,000.  But that’s never going to happen to me.  One deal was worth more than I’ve made in my entire career.
  • When I come up with the ideas, they seem great.  But when I finally get them on paper, they always seem to come up short.  Maybe I just don’t have what it takes.
  • I have some talent, but just not quite enough.  I’ve given it my best shot.
  • I’ve been at this for DD years.  If it was going to happen, it would have already happened.

I'm sure you can think of a few more.

One of the aspects that I don't hear much about, in our conversations as writers, is how we manage to keep all this crap at bay and not be drowned by it.  And it gets harder as we get older, as the new sheen of optimism towards attempting a writing career has worn away.

Sometimes I give in and indulge these lines of thought for a while.  It's only human, I guess.  It can help to get together with friends, with fellow writers, especially if there's good news to share.  Mutual whining doesn't help.  The main tactic that succeeds for me is actually sitting my ass in the chair writing.  For a good solid chunk of time, more than one day at a time.  String a few mornings together, and I can start to lose track of the other bullshit and remember that I like writing.  A lot.  The rest doesn't have to matter so much.

No comments: