Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Writing by the Numbers, 2014

Distant Neighbors, produced by Fresh Ink, with Louise Hamill, Sheldon Brown, Gillian Mackay-Smith, Daniel Boudreau, directed by Liz Fenstermaker, photo by Jeff Mosser

Time for my annual round up of my writing stats. Being something a numbers geek, this is the perfect way to end the year and look forward to the next. Plus, I always hope that other writers will join in and together we can give folks a more general, if incomplete, picture of how life really works for a writer (especially playwrights).  (See a list of links to such posts below.)

I think it's fair to wonder, when it comes to gathering all these numbers:  Why bother? Why track so much?  In some ways, this is just an odd hobby of mine. But at the same time, capturing data allows for more rational decisions moving forward. Or at least allows for a potential honest assessment of the current state of one's work or career (if that's to be desired).  I often think of the principle in quantum physics, known as the Observer Effect, which states that by attempting to measure something, you end up having an impact on the result, just through the mere act of observation. Writing and submitting plays isn't exactly quantum physics, but by consciously paying attention to how I spend my time and efforts, I become more self-aware. This is part of the reason why in my work with the New England New Play Alliance, one of our first projects has been a comprehensive attendance survey of new work done in Boston over the past two years. We want to know the current state of the new play scene here in Boston, but we're also curious to see whether actively measuring the new play ecosystem  has some impact on how it operates. We'll see. (Watch for a big report coming out in mid-January.)

Anyway, back to my own numbers.  2014 was a busy year, with lots of productions and readings. And many hours spent.  And a few dollars earned.  Here are the stats:

Number of Productions/Readings:  44.
Number of Performances:  123.  (This includes published plays.)

  • 18 productions were of published plays. 
  • 1 production and 6 readings were of full-length plays.  
  • My work was read or produced in Japan, New Zealand, Canada, England, and the following 16 states: MA, WA, RI, NY, IN, CO, FL, PA, IL, MO, CA, NE, NJ, VA, NJ, NC. (None of these figures include plays done by students in competition--those were used widely, across North America).
Estimated Audience:  13,411 total. This includes 10,333 for performed work. For published plays I tend to estimate low, 40 people/performance. The rest of the total audience comes from people reading books, plays published in anthologies, etc. These are based on conservative estimates--the actual number is probably higher.

Books sold (mostly ebooks):  78   (Many fewer than I'd hoped. The bottom has dropped out of the self-publishing ebook market.)

Total:   235
queries for plays:  11
play scripts submitted:  164
queries for books: 54
book manuscripts submitted:  6

Hours spent on writing :  1,426 hours
actual writing and research:  452 hours (my initial goal was 600)
reading for work (not fun):  109 hours   (this used to be counted under writing time in past years)
rehearsals and writing meetings:  342 hours  (includes a tiny bit of teaching)
marketing and admin:  396 hours
New England New Play Alliance:  127 hours

I also spent 130 hours farming at the Long Life Farm this season (we didn't have our own farm this year).

Here's how my time worked in:
2013:  996 hours (394 writing/308 rehearsing/294 marketing)  + 902 hours farming
2012:  896 hours.  (386 writing/278 rehearsing and meeting/231 marketing)   + 734 hours farming

2011: 818 hours.  (I didn't break out rehearsals from desk writing time in 2011).

The hours are a bit under reported, in all categories. I'd thought that since I wasn't farming my own farm this year, the 900 hours I spent farming in 2013 would all come into my writing life, but that was wishful thinking. The farm work in 2012 and 2013 was intense (in many ways) and also mostly out of the house, so when I was at the farm or market, I was only doing farming. When I'm working from home to write, I also have to take care of various family and household duties.

Breaking out the reading hours was useful for me, because it helped me invest more time and effort into reading plays, and also kept me honest about how much time I spent actually sitting at my desk writing and researching. The New England New Play Alliance is a new project this year and is time intensive. I'm hopeful that it will have a measurable impact on the new play ecosystem in my home region, but we'll have to see.

2 new full-length plays (both on the short side)
3 new ten-minute plays (plus more scenes)
started a new full-length play
wrote some one-minute plays
LOTS of revisions--to multiple full-length plays, a musical, a novel.

Plays watched:  57
Movies/TV series watched:  64
Plays read: 50
Books read:  22 

I watched more plays than I'd planned (by a lot) and read fewer books than I would have liked. I read a lot more full-length plays than in the past, though I'd like this number to continue to grow this year.

Gross Income$7,974
published plays:  $1,051  (about the same as last year)
production royalties:  $431
commissions:  $5,000  (installments on 3 different projects)
teaching: $570
my novels:  $241  (down a little from last year)
Prizes: $110
misc. (essays, panels, editing & other): $571

Expensesabout $5,480 
I spent about $1,400 on theatre tickets, by far my biggest expense. (up a lot from last year and which seems excessive, but some of it was buying tickets for my family to see my own shows, plus I see a lot of plays. I'm going to have to cut back a little this year--I have a kid in college with some pretty impressive tuition bills.)
$330 went to submission fees (I only pay to submit to super big places, like the O'Neill, or to international festivals)
$565 went to professional dues and memberships (DG, StageSource, Rhombus, etc.)

Net Income:  $2,494  

past years:
2013:  Gross income:   $7,767  Expenses:  5,758  net:  $2,029
2012:  Gross Income:  $3,844  Expenses:  $2,808  net:  $1063
2011:  Gross Income:   $2,638   Expenses:  $4,665  net:  $-2027

Those are my writing numbers. For better or worse.  I was able to completely throw myself into playwriting this year, perhaps more than ever. In terms of finances, the news was mixed--my income stayed steady, but I worked 50% more hours. On the other hand, it was an immensely satisfying year artistically, and my plays were seen by LOTS of people. And I have more exciting projects coming up, with five productions scheduled for short plays, and readings and productions of four full-length plays on the calendar for 2015.  I would obviously like to reach larger audiences and get paid more, but that will require continued hard work, patience, and a little bit of good luck.

Please let me know if you keep track of numbers like this and if you post about it anywhere, let me know, and I'll post a link below:

Donna Hoke's submission tallies  (she submits a LOT more than I do)
Adam Szymkowicz's year in review 
Claudia Haas's year end stats