It’s a little wild to me that of my 26 (I may have miscounted) blog posts, 20 of them are references to pop songs but not one of those twenty are Taylor Swift. So clearly, it’s time to fix that problem.
It’s been a rocky time. The happiest I’ve been in the last month is when I was out of town. I was miserable when I left town and then came back and crashed into a deep depression that I’m still clawing my way out of.
But aside from it being a rocky time, it’s also been a really weird time. 2019 has been the year of “Surprise B*tch.” I thought FOR SURE I’d get this grant I’ve been wanting for years. It was my third time applying and I somehow convinced myself this would be the year.
Well, I didn’t get it. But the same day I found out I didn’t get it, I got a phone call from another company asking me if I’d be willing to write a different play…with a commission that was twice the grant amount I was just turned down for.
And then that happened again. Another grant, this one local, flat out rejected me. I foolishly expected a personal rejection at least but I’ve also rolled my eyes so hard they got stuck when other artists have talked about how they “deserved” a personal rejection so I couldn’t be that hurt.
But I had gone all in for it, had four different theatres willing to partner, two major museums…and I still got rejected. The idea wasn’t good enough I guess. Sometimes you’re just not good enough.
Literally the next day, I got offered a commission to write a play with a university and the amount was double what I would’ve paid myself with the grant that rejected me.
And then on the job front. Yes, I lost my job as artistic director BUT I had three job offers within a month of losing that job. And two out of three were actually really great. I accepted one of them and I’m still in consideration for a different job that could change my whole life in an amazing way.
So…it all worked out. Right?
I’m still trying to figure out how to see the good. I’m a planner. I like to feel like I have some sort of control over my life but I don’t. None of us really do. A series of things could happen that could knock completely off track.
And sometimes being knocked off track is a good thing. I’m so excited about what’s coming up. It feels like I’m finally, finally moving in a direction that makes sense.
But it wasn’t the direction I planned on.
I understand this is the life of an artist. Or at least the life of the playwright. You never know what’s coming and it’s a wild exciting ride.
But how can anyone plan a life like that?
I like to track growth by tracking my acceptance rate.
From 2015 to 2017, my acceptance rate went up. I peaked at 15% in 2017. And then dropped to 10% in 2018. And dropped again to 7% in 2019.
But…I realized my formula was off. I was only counting who I submitted to (as my total) and then what I was accepted into. So if I sent out 100 submissions and 7 accepted, I said I had 7% acceptance rate. But I had no way of accounting for companies who contacted me directly without me applying first.
So if I adjust the formula, then suddenly I’m back at 10%. Which for playwriting is really, really good.
So…is success truly measurable? What happens when you set a goal and don’t make it but something else comes through instead? Do you still charge after the goal or do you switch direction?
In reality, I’m doing really well. But it feels like I’m crashing. Like I’ve failed.
Because, technically, I did. I didn’t get the grants. I didn’t get the award.
How do I even move forward from here? The things I’m aiming for are turning me down brutally but the things I think are out of reach are landing at my door.
I’m a Math girl. I love a good formula. (A fun blog post for later: being an artist + liking math.)
But how do I make a formula for something that’s uncountable? I tried to make a literal formula for success and it didn’t work.
I’m ready to move on. Rejection is part of the job. What I’m not ready for is not having a way to measure my success. I’m so unsure about what I should even be aiming for. Yes, all of these amazing things are happening but I still need a proverbial “day job.”
How do I even know what to apply for? Everything I thought was guaranteed is turning me down. But somehow my career is still thriving.
As artists, how do we know when we’re out of the woods?