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Thursday, October 21, 2010

The First Year Out

Anyone who goes through an intensive Creative Writing workshop knows the feeling of directionlessness after the final class.  How will I keep writing?  Do I have to make a living, too?  I asked Walt McGough (who received his diploma three days ago) what the first year out has been for him. 
Walt: I would wager that the only near-universal feeling for playwrights leaving a writing program is one of complete, abject panic. Questions start swarming as soon as you step outside of BPT's walls (or at least they did for me): "What do I do now?" "Should I start something new, or keep editing?" "How am I supposed to write plays without a weekly deadline imposed on me?" In short: "How do I stay inspired?" 
BU's program is a pressure cooker of good writing and great ideas, where you spend a large portion of your week sitting in a room with smart people and talking about making the art that you love. That can really spoil a guy, which made it easy to feel adrift once I was out on my own. And, yeah. A bit of panic ensued. But it got better! So much better.

And the way it got better, weirdly enough, was not writing. Not immediately, at least. Cast out into a strange and frightening world, I found that I couldn't even start thinking about writing without first establishing what I was writing for. I mean, The Art, obviously, I guess, but I needed something more concrete to un-block myself. So I researched and found new reasons. I started by just asking people I knew if they knew any festivals/contests/workshop opportunities I should be trying for, or any theatres around town I should be paying attention to. Then I went to the Dramatists Guild's reference site and pulled a few things that looked interesting. Then I started looking around Boston, and seeing what companies were in the neighborhood that I should be paying attention to. Then I laid that info all that out, put it in some kind of order, and soon I had a big honking spreadsheet full of submission information, selection criteria, and most importantly, deadlines. Beautiful, beautiful deadlines. Spaced regularly enough to keep me working. Some of the submissions involve re-tooling stuff I have left over from class, but the ones that I like most are the ones that force me to write new stuff. Because doing that reminds me that I can write new stuff, even when I'm not in school, and that's an exciting and necessary reminder. I still have good days and bad days, and it's not like I'm churning out manuscripts by the dozen every morning, but I'm still moving forward, and plugging away.

And in the meantime, I'm just recently figuring out the last piece of the puzzle: support networks. Turns out, all those smart people I got to talk to every week at BU? They didn't just disappear. They're still around. Most of them, anyway, and they're still all excited about theatre and it's still fun to talk to them about it and even share work sometimes. I also lucked into a job with SpeakEasy Stage Company, which means that I get to spend my day working in the business side of things, and get a better feel for the Boston theatre landscape. And then, also, I got engaged right after school ended, and that's been pretty fantastic all the way through.

So, yes. Blind, abject panic. But then it gets better. And it keeps getting better. And with any luck, it will continue to keep getting better. Just as long as I keep writing, and building, and continuing all of the great grand enjoyable work that I got started under the watchful eye of dear ol' BPT.

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