"Working hard, 'stead of looking for breaks"
- Pat Monahan, Train
I used to believe that if I just wrote a lot, and if I genuinely had talent, someone would "find" me. I never realized what a passive (not to mention foolish) attitude that is.
In order to be found, you have to at least let people know you're being sought. And yes, you can do it in a wishy-washy way, submitting when you feel like it, but it is work... and doing work when you feel like it -- well, imagine how it would go over if you approached your day job like that.
At first I realized (largely through Stephen King's excellent On Writing) that writing can be treated like a blue collar job, where some days it's just like digging ditches or washing dishes. It's not always a magical mystical thing. I mean obviously it can be, but as Pablo Picasso said, "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working". I've applied that attitude to my writing, and I do allow myself to be proud of the fact that before I turn thirty I have finished 29 plays (and got about a dozen more still sizzling on the grill).
The second realization was that I had to apply that same blue collar attitude to the part of the job I fucking hated -- submissions. It's part of the job. Accept it or perish.
I suppose it's possible if writers had bosses threatening to fire them if they didn't write and submit, we'd have a lot more success stories. Truth is, we do have such a boss -- it's Time. And eventually, your name will be called and you're will be handed a pink slip.
I'm incredibly lucky and grateful to have McCall as my own personal cheerleader who believes in me and helps pick me up when I'm down on myself. She also taught me basically everything I know about theatre -- my experience prior to meeting her was limited to the playing a swan in the Ugly Ducking in 4th grade, playing Mr. Potter in A Wonderful Life the Musical (you read that right) and one playwriting class in college (right before I graduated).
I thought I was going to write short stories and novels -- but thanks to McCall, I gave writing plays a serious try, and through her connections my first show See You On The Outside was read the head of a local theatre and had an excellent performance at a one act festival... and I thought "I can do this". And so I am trying to make this happen.
I am making this happen.
I'm just not going to blog about it any more. As you likely noticed (and I noted several times myself) I just don't have that much to say every day about it. I'm really not wired to be a blogger (more on that later).
In the next few days, I will post a running list of the submissions I've made (listing the city) and note what their status is, so it'll look something like this:
Day 234 - Chicago - Letter of inquiry - said I can send ten page sample!- Became Day 235
Day 235 - Chicago - Ten page sample from 234 submitted - waiting
Day 236 - NYC - sent one act - Accepted!!!
And I will update it daily (or close to daily) just to keep me accountable to y'all.
And apologies -- I do not have the hard stats ready yet. As the year progressed, I kept kind of a messy list going in a word doc, and while it got more refined as it progressed, putting it all together into a meaningful spreadsheet has been a massive pain in the ass.
In the next week or so, I will put together the stats for the first six months -- and the reason I choose the first six months, is those are now officially all theaters that have been given at least six months to respond, which I think is a fair amount of time -- I know some of them say eight months to a year, but six months is generally fair. I will update that list monthly with the next month on the list.
Also, because it just seemed like a fun idea, I have started creating color-coordinated month charts. Check it out here.
Here is the main statistic that I think sums it all up:
In the first 4.5 years I had as a playwright up through June 2012, I had 14 shows selected for performances and readings... not bad.
Since I started the new blog -- I've had 7 so far.
That's why I can't stop doing this. I can't give up the excitement of knowing any day I could be hearing back from one of the literal hundreds of places I've written to -- last night's submission to LA, or some random submission from NYC four months ago that languished in their email.
It was a two-way tie: Day 52, in which the theatre told playwrights they could change scripts if they felt they weren't "entertaining enough" and could change gender and or race to fit their casting abilities. They got an immediate response from me saying "Thanks, but fuck you" (not literally, but I was thinking it really loudly).
The other was one I wanted to keep under wraps because I'm not trying to Woodward and Bernstein anybody. It was a fairly significant theatre, and I recognized out I'd been rejected twice by the same "Literary Associate".
Now, if I know who is going to be reading my work, I'm the kind of guy who will research my Reader, and try to find out a little about the gatekeeper I'm facing. Do they have a background in classics? Do they like weird freaky avant-garde shit? Are they approachable? What's their Twitter feed look like? Do they make fart jokes?
All very important stuff.
It turned out (thanks to a little Googling of a VERY unique name) this "Literary Associate" was still in high school, and thanks to their open Facebook page, I could see they were currently stressing about their grades. Furthermore, when I approached the Artistic Director with this evidence (politely pointing out it was utter bullshit), the AD was initially very responsive, said I could send my play directly to him, and said they would resolve the issue... then they mysteriously failed to reply to two follow-up emails from me. I then found out this high schooler was the kid of two major wealthy donors to that theatre.
I do believe the AD's heart is in the right place, but needless to say, I don't submit to them any more. C'est la vie :)
Out of 30 submissions in June 2012
1 straight-up acceptance (yay!)
3 ongoing relationships developed (yay!)
5 responses telling me I could submit (w00t)
2 acknowledged receipt, still waiting
1 positive rejection (no, but send us something else, you're a finalist, etc.)
If we count the positive rejection as a "negative" response, that's 19 negative responses against 11 positives. That's pretty damn awesome when you consider it's all cold-calling (or cold-writing, as it were).
Like I said, I'm hooked.
I'm going to keep going, and if I have any major successes to report, or any crazy stories to tell, I will share them with you. But I've found I'm not really a blogger. Most of the stuff I want to write about is life, death, sex, religion, and humanity -- and for me, those just make better plays than blog posts.
And tomorrow, Day 365, I'm going to print off my latest script and submit it to my Day-100-but-actually-103... Playwrights Horizons. And in case something goes wrong (like it did for Day 100), I'll have a back-up NYC e-submission ready to go of course :)
And that is it. We are done.
My website account tells me that since August 2012 (when I got a professional account and it started tracking stats) I have had seventy-nine THOUSAND pageviews from sixty-nine thousands unique visitors. Now, those numbers are likely inflated, but even if that's somehow ten times too many, I'm insanely blown away.
You all are rock stars, and made this blog a hell of a lot more fun than it would've been if I was just failing on my own again and again :) But you all helped me make my repeated failures (and occasional success) a sort of performance art, and that was totally unexpected and awesome. So thank you.
I'd like to thank:
McCall, for supporting my crazy late-night typing binges and endless cheering on, cheering up, and being my constant source of sunshine and inspiration, and for constantly beautifying my blog with your gorgeous photographs. I love you sweetheart, and could do none of this without you.
My parents and in-laws for reading every single day and sending the occasional Atta-boy note.
Bryn of Anthem Theatre for taking a chance on me, following me on Twitter on Day 12, and responding to my random Day 13 inquiry, and becoming a great friend... and Mike, Johnny, and Lindsay -- you guys are incredible, and I'm so grateful to Anthem Theatre for giving me the most fun night of the entire damn blog (that's what she said!)
- Please do me a favor and go like Anthem's Facebook page -- you will be a better, happier person with them in your world, I guarantee it.
Phillip and Mia for the great phone calls and emails, I hope to meet you guys soon
Greg Cicchino for keeping in touch, for guidance, and for directing my upcoming show in an NYC festival!
Paula D'Alessandris for your amazing work and introducing me to some wonderful actors
Sherri and Paige, for your support and advice
Karen, for choosing my script Saves the Day and making it a winner before I even started this crazy journey
Kathleen Alvania and the badass Disreputables -- thanks for the support, the killer reading, and the badass t-shirt!
Michael C. for choosing me as a playwright you want your theatre to develop a relationship with.
Ben from Firework Theatre -- for randomly checking up on me and giving the words of support -- have a great wedding dude!
To Deborah Magid, Deb Workman, and Sarah Scheiner for repeatedly taking the time to write to me to tell me how much you were enjoying my journey
The Inkwell -- for fostering great conversations about playwrights and giving us real opportunities, not just lip service.
Rachel Bublitz, for being so selfless with all the opportunities you found (playwrights follow her on Twitter, stat)
Emily Ball Cicchini -- for more retweets and sharing of my blog posts than I can count
Every Artistic Director, Literary Manager, or random person in charge of the "info@ABC" email address who took the time to respond or forward my emails to the right person.
Everyone who took the time to download my plays off of Amazon. I kept getting surprised to see one or two purchases pop up in the store. Meant a lot to me :)
And I know this is a cop-out, but thank you to everyone who ever offered me a word of encouragement and cheered me on - there are at least 50 of you on Twitter and Facebook. I want you to know I printed out so many messages from you guys, and sometimes when I'm having a shitty day, I re-read them. I'm serious.
Happy Friday, friends.