Last night, I finished the first draft of my seventh full-length play. It’s had several working titles, including The Art of Sugar, Sweet Nothing, Boxes and Bows, and, now, Brilliant Works of Art; that last one best sums up the play. I don’t know if it will be the final title, but I’m not all worried about that right now because I’m still exhaling after typing those words “END OF PLAY.”
I love how playwrights will never ask after a new play: “What’s it about?” They know better. They know that you have to really read and feel a play to know what it’s about and, even then, it can be hard to articulate. Instead, they just say “Congratulations!” I like that, because right now, fresh off giving a proper resolution to Grant, Abby, and James, I can’t even think about how I’m going to synopsize this thing. In fact, as happy as I am that it’s finally here, I don’t even want to look at it for a while.
Because as I tweeted today, “Birth a child, love it instantly. Birth a play, and you’re not even sure you like it.” Of course I did love this play once, somewhere six or eight months ago when, after six or eight previous months of contemplating the characters and the ideas and adding bits of dialogue and images to a file, I finally typed “Act I, Scene 1.” I loved it more when I wrote that first scene and law student Abby and financier Grant became real people with chemistry and good senses of humor. And I still loved it when I introduced James, the sensitive and artistic soul with a flair for drama. And then, when their lives got complicated, and all the pieces wouldn’t fit together and every day seemed like trying to do a jigsaw of pieces the same shape and color, I started to hate it. I loathed it. I wondered why I ever started it in the first place, and why I was spending so many hours struggling to complete something that would only yield more hours of taking it apart and putting it back together again.
Of course you know I didn’t stop. No writer stops, because they, and I, know that slogging through the mud is what eventually brings clarity because the best reveals are at first obscured. What’s discovered in that difficult journey is what ultimately makes the play what we first envisioned it might be, and that the more pain there is through the middle, the sweeter the feeling when we’re over the hump, the end is in sight, and the words start tumbling faster than we can type. We’re madly in love again, the endorphins propelling us across the finish line. We tweet, we Facebook post, we chime: I finished a play!
And then… the morning after. The self-doubt. This is a dumb idea. Nobody will want to produce this. I need to actually show this to somebody. And all of this leads to the inevitable questions: now that this is finished, what on earth am I going to write about next? What if I never come up with another idea? And the realization that when I do, I will—willingly—begin this process anew, the ups and downs, the doubt and despair, the knowledge that even this first draft will take me through those processes several more times before it approaches anything close to “finished.” You get it, right?
Yeah, me too.