December 1, 2010

synchronicity and doubt

I read a post linked to from the Community Dish Yahoo group where fledgling playwright Natalie Wilson talks about the period shortly following a successful reading. She describes it as a kind of post-partum depression.
I’m ashamed -- I feel like if I haven’t landed anything then it must not be that good. Or at least that is what people must think, because the only way to know in the arts that something you have done has merit is if other people give it a stamp of approval. Without the mark of commercial success on something, what you have created (or what talent you may possess) is all so much drivel. At least that is how I feel. I can say my play is good until I’m blue in the face, but without an external stamp of approval no one else has any reason to believe that.
You know what? I know exactly how she feels because that's where I am right now. Brian M. Rosen gives a fantastic response about the difference between success and merit:
I think the trick for the emerging creative is to keep a rock solid wall between the concepts of merit and success. You need to be able to look at your output and see its merit without the coloration of success (or lack thereof). It’s the internal voice that defines your creative output, not the external. That’s the voice that will make decisions, this note or that note? Transition to a new section or keep repeating this idea? Who speaks next? What do they say?

That’s the voice that needs to look at your work and say, “Yeah. This is good. I need to make more of this.”
That's a sentiment I can definitely get behind. Nevertheless, I can't shake the feeling that it's not quite getting to the core of the playwright's dilemma. Natalie presses the idea when she says (bold mine):
We've all known those artists/performers/writers who think they have this amazing talent, but they just... don't.  I can think my play is great, but if no one wants to hear it, or if when they do hear it, no one responds to it, then I don't think I can really call it great.  I do rely on what other people think - not to the exclusion of own instincts, but along with - because my goal is to create art that speaks to people, that touches people, that causes them to look at something in life a bit differently than they did before.  To me, my instinctual feeling that my work has merit can only be validated by achieving that goal.  Which I can't know unless I put it up in front of an audience and observe their response.
To which I say: exactly.

Am I the only one in the theatre blogosphere who has anything to say about my play? This is not hyperbole. I mean this is all seriousness. Is my time better spent talking via e-mail with the handful of people who will respond to me as opposed to putting everything out here and making myself look like the homeless person talking to herself?


  1. I really admire the candor and honesty of this post, with which I relate.

    To answer your last (and in some ways most important) question: I think yes. I have found that talking into the void is a good way to practice talking... but genuine engagement with a few engaged conversationalists is a more effective way to connect me to people and to connect people to my work.

  2. What Gwyd said. I've never been able to have a meaning cross-blog conversation about my own work. I mean, people have said insightful (and wonderful) things about it but... do you want to have your work discussed via megaphone in various corners of Union Square, or would you rather do it with people you know in a cafe somewhere?