Back in July 2018, I had a choice to make. I knew I had to leave my job. It wasn’t working for me and it was time for a real change. But what was that change going to be? In my mind, I had two choices: work part-time and be a playwright or get another full-time job and slow my playwriting career down (just for now) so I could get some sort of stability in my life.
I know now I made the wrong choice. Because I made my choice out of fear.
I first moved to Arkansas back in 2011. The primary reason was this was the only place I got a job in a theatre and I had told myself that no matter what the job I was, I was going to work in theatre. Though I was working for Trike Theatre, my first day on the job was at Walton Arts Center. I was stage managing a children’s show. In the room, across the way, was Josh sitting there on his phone. For the longest time, everything about this place felt like fate. I met my husband there. I worked my first show there. I felt pulled to Walton Arts Center. Even as I worked at other jobs, I kept applying, hoping I would one day get hired.
And then I did. But working there came at a cost. It’s a massive presenting house. The schedule is nonstop. And while the team is amazing, it’s really hard to do anything else.
I convinced myself back in July that I could be okay with that. That I could be okay turning opportunities down and walking away from getting produced, just for a few years, so that I could build a savings account and have things like health insurance.
Somehow, I had convinced myself that I could be okay with standing in my own way.
There’s already so much standing in my way. I’m Arkansas-based. I don’t have the network many other playwrights have. THOUSANDS of playwrights are submitting the same opportunities I am.
Why would I add another obstacle to that?
I’ve spent the last month trying to figure out how to get out of my way. What were my options? What could I really do? I need a job. I have bills to pay. Eating is nice. I can’t just not work.
But…could I…could I work part-time and let playwriting fill in the rest?
I started to do the math. I spend so much of my time looking at budgets. I tell other artists “you need a budget.” But my budget was always more of a “how can I use my playwriting money to add to my life?” It wasn’t a primary source of income. It was a nice and unexpected surplus.
But then it was tax time. I’ve been upfront with money and I intend to stay upfront about it. I always thought Josh made twice what I made. Turns out, with playwriting as supplemental income, I was making a little bit more. Than Josh who had a full-time job.
So…wait. Why was I burning myself out doing things I wasn’t passionate about if I could truly make a living doing something I loved? Yes, it would be hard. Yes, it would be inconsistent. Yes, it would scary.
But if you’re not brave enough to do the things afraid you’re afraid of, you’re not a real artist.
If I can’t stand behind my own values, what does that make me?
I want to write plays. I want to create opportunities for other playwrights and other artists. Yes, I know how to put on a show. But I’m ready to start putting up shows that I helped create. I’m ready to do what I need to do to step up and stand up for artists in my region. Because they need it. They’ve needed it for a while. I want to be a part of community-focused collective whether that’s working at a community-driven theatre or forming a playwright collective.
Either way, I want to be on the ground floor. I want to be in the rooms where the planning and forming and dreaming happens.
I told my supervisors about an hour ago that I would be leaving my full-time job by the end of spring. The plan is to work part-time for a theatre company (elsewhere) and then be a full-time playwright.
A lot of people have thrown my fears at me. “What will you do if this doesn’t work out?” “You won’t be able to get another full-time job. Your resume is too sporadic.” “How will you make money?” “What about health insurance? You need that.”
My answer to most of those questions I don’t know.
But I have to do this anyway. I have to try.
I’m not incredibly religious anymore but I am deeply spiritual. I talk about “God” a lot but God to me is a force, a cosmic entity. Sometimes I trade out and use “the universe” instead so I don’t believe in the standard Christian God anymore.
The universe has been throwing this in my face and I’ve been running from it. I keep running away from who I’m supposed to be. I keep standing in my own way.
I can’t keep doing that. I’m getting older. I’m going to run out of opportunities to do this.
And if I fail, then at least I know I went for it. At least I know I gave this everything I had. And I fought for it.
I’m ready to be the person it feels like I’m meant to be. Even if it terrifies me. Even if it turns out I’m wrong. Even if I’m not good enough.
I want to be a playwright.