I’m lucky enough to live in a city where I could drive at most thirty minutes in any direction and end up in the woods or at a body of water but usually almost always both. This usually makes me feel better when I’ve had a really rough period in playwriting.
When I found out, back in 2015, that my play, Breathe Me In, wasn’t going to the Kennedy Center, I went a long hike.
(Long to me anyway. I think it was like two hours max. I don’t know how y’all out here hiking for five or more hours. I say y’all because I’m specifically talking to you woodsy southerners.)
When I found out my play, Abortion Road Trip, wasn’t even a finalist for the Kernodle I did the same thing. My rejection process with a particularly hard rejection is actually usually
Step 1: Apathy (oh well I guess)
Step 2: Self-criticism (why did I send this play? I should’ve sent…)
Step 3: Self-doubt (I knew I’d only get so far in playwriting anyway. I guess it’s time to let that dream go)
Step 4: Deep, deep sadness (This is the step I usually go into the woods and cry because I’m literally that dramatic)
Step 5: Write a different play and write off the one that got rejected
You’ll notice “acceptance” isn’t on there. I don’t know how to “accept” rejection. I don’t think it’s something that’s actually real. Honestly, most of the time, Step 6 is “forget I got rejected” and then step 7 is “accidentally notice it on my very intense submission tracker Excel sheet and loop back to step 1”.
(There are a ton of great books and resources out there if you struggle with rejection. I’m not going to list them because, as I’ve mentioned, they don’t work for me personally and I feel weird about endorsing something that didn’t actually help me. But a quick Google search is all you need.)
In the last fifteen days, literally since I wrote my last blog post, I have received TEN rejection letters and not a single acceptance letter. That’s averaging at almost one a day. And because my work email and my personal email are linked, I can’t exactly not check my email.
(Also, I wouldn’t want to. I’m not one who likes to put off bad news. I’d rather know immediately because (1) I’m obsessive and (2) I can process it earlier and get it out of the way. Feelings tend to be inconvenient when you work full time in production.)
My immediate instinct was to get out of town. I went to Hotels.com and looked at hotels in cities close to me: Tulsa, Kansas City, hell maybe even Dallas. And then I opened my calendar to see when I could go. And as Janae Monelle says, it was time to cue the violas because the entire month of May was booked solid for me at work.
My May: I work weekdays, every day, from 9-5, at a local theatre company I adore. For the first weekend of May, I had to be in town for a promotion event. For the second weekend in May (that’s this one), I had to be in town to pick up a visiting actor and to work on a production. The next two weekends in May are the shows of said production. A production in which I literally cannot miss a single show.
To really put it into perspective: May 26, the show closes. May 27, I drive the guest artist who arrives today back to the airport. May 28, I drive myself to the airport so I can go to Orlando for two weeks to work on playwriting.
I have to stay. I can’t make a great escape.
Which, okay, okay fine. Maybe I could at least go hiking, right? I live in this really cool place where I can hike whenever I want for free.
Except that the show I’m working on is outside and my allergies are so bad this time around that I am needing to limit any additional time outside because I’m very intensely fighting off what’s trying to turn into a sinus infection.
So I can’t go outside and I can’t escape and I don’t even really get time to rest? Well, then it’s time to escape for real.
And this is when I start to plan to move to my “dream city,” D.C.
About once a month, I sit down and write down all the things that would need to happen for me to literally run away from my life and move to DC. I say run away because I want to emphasize that’s exactly what it would be. When I used to say “moving,” my friends were like “That’s probably what you need.”
But here’s the truth of it: I’m a restless spirit. I will never be happy living in any one city but I’ll also get run down from constant travel. I can fantasize about how great my life would be in Chicago or Kansas City or DC but at the end of the day, five years in and I’d be ready to move again.
(I’m working through this in therapy. Hate being stuck but I need some sort of roots. Just, like, very loose ones.)
So yeah, it’s not a healthy move for my career. I really don’t think I would’ve been any more successful in New York or Chicago. In fact, I think I’d be less successful. What was nice about Arkansas was I could build up my resume with some pretty amazing jobs while still sending my plays to the same competitions New York and Chicago playwrights were.
What it is, strictly speaking, is a fantasy. A really fun and slightly too realistic fantasy that knowing me I will probably make a reality someday and then end up regretting it four to six years after that.
I’ve smartly replaced my desire to move to a new city with constant travel. I try to go somewhere once a month. But this month, I just can’t.
So, as I look at apartments in Alexandria and job listings at the Kennedy Center, I will drink my tea and write my list again: How to Run Away from My Life, Vol 15.
Rejection sucks, sure. So does feeling stuck.
But you know what also sucks? The only job I’m qualified for at the Kennedy Center right now is a job I’ve already applied for before and won’t get and the cheapest rent I can find is $950/month for what looks like a literal shoebox. At least I think my bookshelf might be able to fit if I sleep in a sleeping bag…
If you’re ever in Arkansas, we have tons of state parks for you visit (for free*). If you’re in Northwest Arkansas, and you’re not that into hiking for hours but like to pretend you are, I recommend Devil’s Den. For one thing, there are a ton of trails so you can lie to hip, in shape friends about which one you took. One of the trails is literally a 15 min hike that doesn’t even feel like it and takes you directly to water. Worth it.