A Letter from sane me to creative me...
Here are some things that are useful to remember.
1. Nobody asked you to do this. You started because you love it, and you can stop at any time.
2. A play is not a human patient; if you don’t cure it, it won’t die.
3. A play is not a cure. It will not save anyone’s life if it’s good, or kill anyone if it’s bad (although it could come close to doing both of those things—but try not to think about that).
4. There’s a reason it’s called a “play.” If you lose sight of that, what are you even doing this for?
5. Caring about making generous work is not the same thing as taking yourself too seriously, even though they feel incredibly similar. Do the first; avoid the second. And don’t be such a d-bag that you confuse the two, or, worse, get pissed when someone calls you out for taking yourself too seriously.
6. Everybody who gives you feedback means well.
7. Just because somebody gives you feedback doesn’t mean it’s true.
8. Just because feedback doesn’t seem true, doesn’t mean it’s false.
8a. Nobody who gives you feedback is writing the same play you are.
9. You had enough skill to create an entire set of lives and situations out of an idea. Idiots can’t do that. Thus, you’re not an idiot. If you can do that, you can identify what feedback will help you tell the story you’re trying to tell, and discard what won’t. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it does mean you can.
9a. The salient point is: you’re not an idiot. Remember that. But also remember the thing about not taking yourself too seriously. Idiots take themselves too seriously. Look at most of the Republican candidates for president. Don’t be those guys.
10. A play is not a problem that needs to be fixed; it’s a puzzle that’s fun to solve, God dammit.
11. You cannot, will not please everyone, and no matter how hard you try, the people who are not impressed with you will never be impressed with you, so just try to impress the people who are willing to be impressed.
12. Reviewers will probably hate the writing and will blame you for a miserable time, because you had the arrogance to put them through it. They're kind of right. You did instigate this story. But:
13. Your value as a human being is not dictated by what someone says about what you wrote in a newspaper.
14. No, it’s NOT fair that you work really hard to create an emotional experience for your audience and someone who watched it once gets to proclaim your worth as a human being in some newspaper, but there’s nothing you can do about it, and The New York Times was nasty to Sondheim in the original productions of most of his work, and he’s Stephen Sondheim, and they’re supposedly the best reviewers in the country. They also hated Christopher Durang. If they can deal with it, you can, too. Just make sure there is someone around to get you drunk and drive you home.
15. You’re lucky that you’re in position to be obliterated in the paper, because a lot of writers want that and don’t have it.
16. But, yes, it’s still not fair that people get to be mean to playwrights in the paper. They should at least treat you with respect.
17. It’s probably not gonna happen, though, so get over it.
18. Buddhism has a lot to teach us about writing: the practice of non-attachment, for example. Let go of the damn thing, it’s never gonna be perfect no matter how hard you try.
19. A play is an act of empathy.
20. If you discover during the process people forget to have empathy for you, seek out those who do. And, better than that, learn to practice some damn empathy for yourself once in a while, Fuck Face.
21. You invented a whole world out of nothing. In a way, you’re kind of like God. You think God cares about bad reviews, moments in scripts that never get fixed, people disagreeing about language choices, plot holes, or stuff like that? Look at what a mess the world is. You think God’s out there, like, oh, I really have to re-write that whole Israel/Palestine situation? And even if God IS doing that, look at that whole Israel/Palestine situation that even God can’t fix. In the scheme of things? That plot hole doesn’t matter all that much.
22. See number 1. And you haven’t stopped yet. So what does that tell you?