Take, for example, a playwright. One enters this vaporous existence knowing she is trying to carve not just characters but a life for herself out of thin air. He knows it’s a gamble but he signs on. He sees plays. Reads them. She buys them and she tries to sell them. Perhaps she trades scripts with likeminded hopefuls. She gets an education. He critiques, he shares, he joins, and he feedbacks. Goodness, she may even win awards and publish—but she can’t make a theatre select her play from the mile-high pile for what turns out to be very limited seasons and few theatres produce new plays. (Oh, they’ll “develop” the hell out of them or offer a multitude of “workshop” opportunities, but getting a full-length produced at a noteworthy venue is like trying to buy New York City real estate: the best options are sealed up. They’ve been farmed out to families and friends through special connections for four generations past your lifetime.) It really, really is who you know with an occasional random pick to make it look like it isn’t. Theresa Rebeck’s, Seminar, makes the blind submission phenomenon painfully clear.
You’re still reading? Okay, then, let’s carry on. As you, the next playwriting sensation, plod ahead, adjusting expectations for smaller dreams, you familiarize yourself with local venues. Terrain, you discover, that’s crowded with a desperate bunch who are either too scared to attempt a run at the larger theatre scope, or ones who’ve already been (chewed up and spit back out). Regardless, they were Here First and they’ve beat you to the punch. They don’t want you—or any competition—and fresh-meat especially threatens because the faces still shine with hope, so the local veterans won’t move over to let one more body in the standing-room-only space but you insist, quietly, with your presence, waiting your turn—even if that seems ludicrous. You deflect their laserbeam death rays and manic outbursts, while filling your head with zen-like quotes about Being the Change, and you continue to look, finding the one theatre in town that does new work! You do somersaults, until a closer look reveals that their aesthetic is counter to your own. You consider Selling-Out: “I, too, can write about demonic clowns, Buddhist cross-dressers, sci-fi zombies, and superheroes,” but realize they won’t take you because they’re FULL, infested with pet projects from converts they won long before you came into view.
To shake it off and clear your head, you walk the duck pond, despairing in the shadows if no one is watching. You drive around at night looking for a FroYo place that isn’t packed with a throng already getting their sugar fix on, and then you fall into bed and try to sleep. To sleep perchance to dream. . . You nightmare, instead, about those you could and should crawl into bed with—if only it would change your fate and make a difference.
On Tuesdays, you work. You work to forget the dire odds and the dreadful statistics that loom on a writer’s horizon. You write and you submit, as if you lived in a bubble of your own choosing.
Wednesdays, you wake fresh to water plants, mop the floors, and read a book that inspires you. You make a tomato sandwich with fresh tomatoes from your neighbor’s garden. The fact that your neighbor would share her abundance with you is all the sustenance you need to write another scene and to dream another day.
Thursdays you decide not to beat yourself up thinking about those whose realities surpass your own. The “winners” who get the prime opportunities and first-rate shortcuts to a world you can only press your nose against wistfully. You dine, instead, on the sobering thought that most people have a life that’s built on compromise. [It isn’t just “playwriting.”] You’re grateful that you’re spending this one, precious lifetime telling the stories you’d like to see told—even if you will never live to see the day that they are. You light a candle and put on music that makes you happy. Perhaps you squirt on perfume for no reason.
The weekend goes by in a blur of work and play (ice cream and television are involved and you run an extra mile—because you can). You make love and are free.
The alarm goes off again on Monday and, still dreaming, you’re in a boxing ring and you come out swinging. . . #FightingLikeAGirl because that's where your power lies.