The play that got away…
Last week was the (very) last of our sessions as the 2017/18 cohort of Playhouse Playmaker. I say ‘very’ because we’ve run over into a new year, and it’s January 2019. It was a chance to catch up, read each other’s work and congratulate ourselves on how far we’d come. Except for some of us, of course I mean for me, that wasn’t as far as I hoped. Don’t get me wrong, the time I have spent on Playmaker has been extremely stimulating, engaging, and (often) challenging. This isn’t about that. No, this is about the indisputable fact that I haven’t finished my play. That in that regard I have failed.
It’s not that I haven’t written a play, I have (or at least several drafts of one) and back in June I even had a part of it staged. It’s just that I wasn’t happy with it. So, in trying to redraft it I took it apart. Which led me to question all of the parts separately, and ultimately left me with a lot of words on a lot of different pages. But no play. I think I’ve been trying to write two plays in one. Or maybe I just never worked out what play it was that I was trying to write. Either way I have nothing more than words on pages.
Failure is such an unremarkable phenomenon and yet we worry so about it. Or at least I have. I have found it difficult. And frustrating. Embarrassing even. To be selected for something so important as this writer’s attachment, to be surrounded by other writers, to work hard at it, and still not to come up with the goods is hard. And yet I fail at things every day and it’s fine. I fail to get out of bed in time for a run, or to put the bins out on the right day, or pop that parcel in the post that’s been sitting on my table since May - sorry mum.
So, I have decided to try to embrace failure. To publicly announce it. To own it.
Depending on the narrative I tell you about myself I am either deeply unprepared for failure and that’s why I struggle with it. Or, this is simply the latest in a long line of failures and that is why I struggle with it. But whatever the objective truth, by embracing failure, recognising that it is a part of life rather than trying to push it away, I actually, somewhat surprisingly, feel ok.
Playmaker has, you see, given me so much more than I could have imagined. It has allowed me to sit and observe the multitude of different ways people write, and crucially accept that all are valid and interesting. It has forced me to write in a way I wouldn’t normally do – working to a monthly deadline. It has helped me to consider and grow to understand what I enjoy about writing, and what kind of writer I am. It has also given me access to worlds I know nothing about and put me in a room full of people I may never have met. It has allowed me to see that the world doesn’t end if you don’t finish a play.
Writing is a lonely, often pressurised and sometimes seemingly thankless task, and yet under John’s informed and caring guidance we have grown as a cohesive group as well as individual writers. Offering support and understanding to each other and bringing fresh eyes and ideas to our work. The quality of the writing that has been produced has been consistently (sometimes sickeningly) high; the content as contrasting as dogshit and deities; the casting ranges from one lone performer, to a whole village. We finish our stint with plays that are as distinctive and different from one another as their authors. Some of them are complete, others still undergoing drafting, and one in pieces.
Thanks for allowing me to fail. I have been stretched, and I have been confused and I have learnt an awful lot. Oh, and I’ve just got a commission for a new play and I’m loving writing it.