In March, I quit my full-time job* because I wanted to a playwright. I figured I had enough saved to float me for six months and I decided now or never.
I was raised by a Virgo (dad), Aquarius (mom), and Sagittarius (step mom). And probably the only thing those three signs have in common is they tend to look at facts, face value. They care less about emotional investment and prioritize actual investment.
So despite having the reputation for being led by my emotions, I’m probably too pragmatic. To me, I’m not hard on myself. I’m just honest.
If I look at my decision through the lens of that, I failed. I didn’t calculate for travel correctly so really I only had money for four months and not six. All of the big things I went for that would’ve helped cover me…I got rejected HARD.
Last year, I think my acceptance rate was 15%. This year, it’s 5%.
By August, I will definitely need a full time job and unfortunately it doesn’t seem like playwriting will be able to cover me.
And honestly, it’s really, really hard to find a job that supports my playwriting career. I work in the arts but somehow it’s almost worst to work in the arts and be a practicing artist. I wish arts organizations would realize having a working artist on staff is an asset and not something to immediately disregard. But…I wish a lot of things.
So. I failed.
But. Is it really fair to look at an arts career that way?
With my full-time job, I was exhausted all the time. After I left, I was able to see shows again, to make (and keep) friends, and I was so productive. Yes, I was (am) still working part-time as an AD at a community arts center but I was strict about being only part time. I worked no more than 25 hours/week which freed up my evenings and weekends.
I got to take some time for myself. And I had time to dream. If I could create an arts center, what would it look like? What do I truly value? And of my values, what do I have the capacity to work towards?
And that last question was really important for me to answer. I love working in communities, I love working with marginalized communities but I have to accept that the best way I can help those communities is to do what I do best: write plays and let more empathetically engaged humans lead the workshops.
I can’t help someone if I’m triggered every time I walked into a hospital. Until I sort myself out, I need to step aside and let people more capable than me take the lead.
But in the meantime, I can start working towards creating a badass space for local artists where they challenge themselves and experiment with their work and f*ck sh*t up. I can use the space I’ve been given in the rooms I’m invited to speak up for those who need an advocate. I can challenge the others in the room to do better.
And that matters too.
And again, did I mention how productive I’ve been?
Since late February/early March, I have written FOUR full-length plays: You Were Mine, Holy Ground, AKA The Pitts, and Here Be Dragons. I still need to finish The Black Friend but once that’s done that will be five plays in 3 months. And once I’m done with The Black Friend, I already have an idea for my next play.
And um…did I mention how cool the plays are? I had a chance to think: What have I not done before? And then I did it.
You Were Mine is a two-hander funeral play focused on a polyamorous couple. I’ve never read a funeral play about a polyamorous couple. Have you? Holy Ground is nine 10-mins or 1 full-length play where the scenes can be in any order. The Black Friend is set at a baby shower and talks about the complexity of the (queer) Afro-Latinx experience. Here Be Dragons is a choose-your-own-adventure play about technology and misogyny.
If that wasn’t enough, I also get to travel, which is a top thing for me (duh. I have a blog about playwriting and traveling).
At the end of this month, I’ll be in Houston for a convening that’s really special to me. The next weekend, the literal next weekend, I’ll be in New York hearing a reading of Here Be Dragons (which to be clear is a play I wrote THIS YEAR). In August, I hope to be in Sacramento for a performance of my one-act, Pick Me Up, and, in September, I hope to fly to DC to see You Were Mine (once again, a play I wrote THIS YEAR.)
On top of all that, I’ve actually been able to sleep. I suffer from insomnia so I will never really sleep through the night but for the first time in a while I slept at least six hours a night (not consecutively but still).
I’m less depressed. I’m walking after work when I don’t go out to socialize. I’m reading more.
So yes, I totally, totally failed at being a full-time playwright. Yes, I will need to get a full-time job by August.
But I don’t regret it. The work that I was able to create was worth it. The time I took for myself was worth it. I’m able to focus, I know what I want, and I think I know how I’m going to get it.
I just needed some time to breathe. Some time for myself.
So I did fail? Yes. But holy f*ck, I’d fail like this every time.
*I quit my full-time job to work part-time as the Artistic Director of Arts Center of the Ozarks and full-time as a playwright. I used my playwriting money to pay myself. I may have failed but I’ll never be not proud that for four months, 50% of income came from playwriting.