I have a job. Like a nine-to-five, badge-in, PTO-accruing, health/dental/holidays-type job. I pore over availability in Outlook before sending meeting invites. I follow up the meetings with detailed action items and due dates. I wear a button-down (up?) shirt and slacks every day, the pair of jeans in my top drawer reserved for the weekends when I am at the park with the boys or (less frequently) at some after-hours social event. The job that supports my family is Not Writer, yet when people ask me what I do I say, I am a playwright.
The most disheartening aspect of spending the majority of my life in the workforce is that I realize just how little I have in common with the rest of the world. What did you do this weekend, a colleague asks. I went to a play, I say. What play, she asks. A reading of a new work by a friend of mine, I say. Oh, she responds. Interesting….
It’s not that there is anything wrong with the people with whom I work. I like my job, actually. I like it a lot. I like the people even more. But they are not my people. They are not my tribe, to use a line that I do not particularly like but that feels like it should come next.
So you ask about “engag[ing] with a community of writers,” and I have to tamp down the part of me that says Are you kidding? I’m on a train at eight, back home at six, where I squeeze in whatever quality time I can with the family, before settling into my second job at ten, the one that doesn’t appear on my W-2 but that I nonetheless claim during those weekend conversations, and I write and rewrite and print and three-hole punch, and troll for other opportunities while resisting the urge to follow-up with the ones I haven’t heard back from (You haven’t read it, yet?).
This is my life, and you’re going to make me make a case?
But…. But you don’t know me, which I guess is the point, so you have to ask the question, and I have to answer. I understand. Which, I suppose, is the short version of my response: I understand. I understand that, considered against the rest of the world, there are very few of us out there—theater artists, that is, and playwrights, fewer still. I understand the value of having a room of one’s own when I need it. I understand the driving force of a guaranteed reading at the end of a draft (!). And I understand that a whole bunch of people who are not playwrights but who are still passionate about new plays make opportunities happen. Most of all, I understand that when writers are not writers they are audience members, and that part of being a member of a community is recognizing what you can give rather than sizing up what you can take. I understand community. I want to be part of yours.
But I also hate these things. These statements. I really do. What do you think is the artist’s role in society? Who are your influences and how do they shape your work? How is this play representative of your aesthetic? Make sure your response is no more than one, double-spaced typed page. It’s in the work, I want to shout. Just look at the work.
But, like I said, I understand. I get it. I’m a playwright. It’s part of my job.