You know… it probably goes without saying, but I’m not immune to the heartache and weariness and struggle that come with being a writer of plays in the 21st century. I do my best to wear it well — at which task I feel like I fail all too often — but it gets me as much as the next playwright. I have miserable half-hours and melancholy afternoons and a few genuinely wretched sleepless nights when I worry about, oh, everything: my career, the fate of one particular play or another, how the world sees my work, whether the world sees my work, whether I’ll ever be produced again, and so on. You know the territory. It’s really, ultimately, quite boring.
When I was feeling particularly crummy the other day, I just happened to walk in on my two year old son reaching for my smart phone, which he knows he’s not supposed to play with unless I’m with him. All he wanted to do, however, was look at pictures of himself, so we opened up the gallery and started scrolling… or, rather, he started scrolling, because children in the 21st century are amazing experimental technologists. We quickly arrived at this picture of his most recent haircut: his eyes and mouth were shut, gently, at the request of his wonderful barber, and I remember how light and sweet and calm he looked while the scissors snipped delicately all around his face. And I thought: this is what matters. This gives me pure and complete joy. Things aren’t really rotten, they only temporarily feel rotten, and only if I let them.
And then suddenly I thought: why am I letting this one particular thing (whatever it was — I’ve forgotten) make me feel like a complete wretch? A full-on failure? It was instantly and totally ridiculous. And immediately, into my mind, came all the great things that have happened to me in just the last two months, several of which I offer here in random order:
- I had lunch with the Norwegian ambassador and the head of the Norwegian Writer’s Guild, comparing notes about the conditions for playwrights in our respective countries.
- I enjoyed a very pleasing run of my play ABSTRACT NUDE in New York (and live-streamed as well).
- I was selected as a 2013 resident of the Theatre Project, also in NY; my play THE BUTCHER had a terrific reading, and it’s about to enjoy a short off-off-Broadway run.
- Both the run of ABSTRACT NUDE and the reading of THE BUTCHER were sketched by Kayti Didriksen, a terrific artist.
- I spoke at the annual meeting of the Dramatists Guild, at which I met two dozen or so terrific artists from all around the country. And they asked me to come back and do it again at the National Conference in Chicago, too.
- I’m about to speak, a few days after writing this, at frickin’ South by Southwest.
- I’ve been deeply engaged in this phenomenal re-development process with The Inkwell, breaking my play THE GREAT DISMAL down into its component parts and re-creating it from scratch for a May workshop and reading.
- My play HOT & COLD was named a semi-finalist for the O’Neill Playwrights Conference.
- I had two plays included in the Baltimore incarnation of the One-Minute Play Festival, which was a blast.
- I have one MAJOR high-profile initiative in development that I can’t yet talk about, plus two plays in consideration for next season that I don’t want to jinx by mentioning.
- And heck, I even won the Urban Stages “Top of the Pile” contest on Facebook.
That’s a pretty good year, if you ask me… and it’s only mid-March!
So here’s what I’m going to pledge to myself. Whenever I get down, even a little, during the remainder of the year… I’m going to remember that picture of my son during his haircut. And I’m going to say to myself: this year is already amazing. Anything else good that comes my way between now and December 31 is an absolute bonus: more than I needed. I am hereby thus inoculated against the blahs. They can no longer have me!
And I suggest you do the same. Not when you’re feeling blue, like I was, but right now, while things are fine. Make your own list of successes, however you define those, and post them wherever you can see them. Call this year DONE; make the rest of it gravy. And let’s help each other remember how good we really have it all year long.