Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
What I’ll be posting in the journal entry directly following this one is a complete list, in somewhat chronological order, of titles of plays I have written and had performed for Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind since I first started working for the company in July 2004. Some of these titles represent the best work I have ever done as an artist in any medium; some of them represent moments of experimentation that failed, or moments of confidence from my colleagues that turned out to be unwarranted. Some of them are funny, some are angry, some are plays that I take on tour and never tire of performing and others are plays that can never be performed again without coming across as stale as a month-old Saltine.
I was supposed to be taking a sabbatical from the Neo-Futurists starting in January, which for our purposes would mean that for up to six months I have no obligation to appear in Too Much Light or to show up at bi-weekly business meetings. The sabbatical option was created for the ensemble many years ago in an attempt to deal with burnout, a real problem when your duties consist of having to remain constantly and consistently creative, as well as prioritizing the survival and growth of the enterprise. It’s been a very busy past year for me, not just within the company but also with outside projects, and occasionally both simultaneously or in rapid succession. It stood to reason that I would take some time off.
This was going to be my pre-sabbatical post, an idea I’d borrowed from recent Neo-Futurist alumni Dean Evans, who made his own such post on the event of his going inactive. I have no plans to go inactive right now, mind, but taking an actual planned break from the day-to-day of the company felt like a milestone, a moment to reflect on the ways that the company has changed me and the way I approach my craft.
However, for various and sundry reasons, I have canceled the sabbatical. I’m okay with that decision. I’m not concerned about burnout anymore. For one thing, I’m really enjoying working with the new group of Neo-Futurists who we cast last June; they re-awaken certain energies I’d allowed to smolder; they challenge me in new and exciting ways. For another, I’m curious to see the directions I can take my political work if I’m not focused any longer on the egregious errors and abuses of power committed by the Bush cabal. I’m actually looking forward to not being on sabbatical, as it is.
So then I wasn’t going to create the post at all. It was a self-indulgent activity in the first place, and one that I even considered doing jukebox-style (“If you see a title that intrigues you, let me know and I’ll post the script for that play!”) until it made me feel really, really balloon-headed to even consider it.
But I’ve been on a deadline for some personal, light writing projects this week and have been stuck, and I remember the words of Neil Gaiman, at a book reading for American Gods some years ago, telling us his audience that the difference between an average writer and a good writer is that the good writers finish1.
I take forever to finish my larger works. I have no idea how some of you do it, you Brett Neveus and Conor McPhersons and whoever else with your significant rate of brilliant material, your two to three dazzling new plays each season. It is in part because I don’t know how you do it that I applied to graduate school…to see if there is something I missed in my slipshod, DIY playwriting education that unlocks the mystery of that productivity.
That said, I’m going to create the next post anyway, because I don’t always give myself enough credit for the work I havefinished, focused as I usually am on my deficiencies. And also, possibly, because I may view my TML work as not being “real” or “significant” in comparison to that other work I take so much time to complete.
But I’ve been making these short plays for four-plus years now, for over 1/5 the life of the company. I have performed them for thousands of people in several cities. I have occasionally made magic of these brief moments and I should be permitted in my tiny corner of the Internet, I think, to express pride in both my successes and missteps within this particular arena.
So that’s that. The next post is a sustained note on my own horn, and you have been warned about the noise.
1 A lesson that several friends of mine pointed out as oversimplified…that “finishing” alone does not make one a good writer, although it certainly does mean that they’re very disciplined.