Being a "Playwright" - The Survivors Shallow Empty Guide

Disclaimer - If you're easily offended then you probably should not read on. You've been warned!

Writing plays! How hard can it be? Honestly it's hard, it's really fucking hard! You will put absolutely everything into it, for years, with very little reward. You'll be told that you should never ever write another play, because your first three plays were terrible, utterly fucking terrible.

People will give you such stupid ass advice like... "Write every day" and "Everybody has at least one book in them". No! Some people do not have a book inside of them, not unless it's been inserted deep into their rectum by somebody else. If you do write every single day, then you are a pathetic loser who has no life, no friends, no hope.

"Read as much as you can" - Riighhht, okay but when have I got time to do that? You see, I'm already writing as much as I can so --

"See as many shows as you can" No... I can't do that! I'm already reading as much as I can and writing as much as I can! --

"Write about your own experiences!" which would be reading, writing and watching?! Right? This would be a fucking terrible play.

Yeah, this industry is full of irritating stuff, like young know-it-all student wanker types who've been professionally trained in the arts. These exciting up and comers expect full funding of their first masterpieces, masterpieces which fall into one of these three categories:

1. Anything at all, the Musical. You take a subject, and you add the words... the Musical, to the end of it. 2. Take the front page of the BBC website and put everything into a script from that front page. Add extra controversial subjects and mix it all together. 3. A twist on Shakespeare.

Stop doing Shakespeare with a fucking twist!

Hey, I've just described 80% of the Edinburgh Fringe programme, and where the fuck are all of the experienced performers? Oh that's right, they've all dropped out, and now they have normal jobs, because the theatre world is a young world, where ageism exists. We should never ever mention this again!

Disclaimer - There are some really talented young people who need to be tracked and appreciated. Equally, there are many who are just annoying little twats who think the world owes them something because of their "talent". This isn't a slur on young people in general, just the twats.

Anyway, those that survive soldier on. After the first couple of years, they'll most likely want to give up or murder a few people.

Try not to murder people!

In reality though, if you're not that good, or motivated to write, then you possibly should just give up at this point. Do something else. There's no money here. Writing stage plays is arguably the worst career choice you can make, ignoring Recruitment Consulting, but at least that pays you a wage right? So maybe be one of those.

Disclaimer - Recruitment Consulting can be a very rewarding career and there are some very lovely people in the industry.

My second bit of advice, not murder, is that rejection is a rite of passage in this world. Be accepting of this. There are only a handful of publishing companies that are worthy of your time, the rest are bedroom pop up attempts, by individuals, who think they're going to make millions representing other writers. They don't! They disappear after a year or so. I know this because I was in the publishing game myself and I sold my company to somebody else who thought there was money in it, there isn't.

And actually, do it yourself. Self publish... why not?! It's never been easier to go down this route.

As a playwright, some things become apparent. It's cut throat out there. People can be pretty brutal. Nobody is going to help you. Everybody has an opinion about your work.

You'll be called sexist because one of your plays doesn't feature a female character. That happened! You'll be called racist because you didn't write a play about slavery in Africa. You'll be called racist because you did write a play about slavery in Africa, even though you're just a middle class white boy from Eastbourne.

The above didn't happen by the way, I wrote that for comedic impact, but even that last comment I wrote with hesitation, because I know that such a comment, as harmless as it is, could be twisted into something terrible. Somebody somewhere, who perhaps doesn't share similar humour to me, or any humour whatsoever, may read it and call me out as a racist person. I'm not though. I'm not a racist. I have black friends.

Listen, controversy is important. If we cannot, as writers, write what we want to write, whether the reader agrees with it or not, then what's the point here. Can I call somebody out as being a fucking cunt? Sure, but will that go down well in real life? Possibly not, even if they are a fucking cunt. It's just unfortunate that the fear of repercussion outweighs the freedom to be honest, but then, equally, when is being honest overstepping the line? This feels like a debate for another day, when I'm not rambling.

As a writer, it's crucial that you find your way and by that I mean your own style. Some people call it a voice, I like that saying too!

I bounced around a bit experimenting at the beginning. I was influenced by others a little bit too much back then. I'm very happy with my style now. Some people hate what I do, and actually that's okay. This is a lesson I have learnt over time. It's okay for people to not like what you do. It doesn't fucking matter at all actually. I am my own worst critic anyway. I argue with myself all the time, mainly in public places.

I like the attention, and attention is part of the driving force for those in theatre right? Come on, I mean sure, people have different reasons to get into this industry, but there is an element of self preservation involved.

My reason initially was acceptance, which quickly turned into ego fueling when I gained a bit of traction on the social media machines, which then evolved into genuine enjoyment and appreciation for the art. I have always said that if I stopped enjoying this shit then I'd quit. I'm still writing plays at the time of writing this blog entry, and possibly I'm enjoying it moreso now than ever before, because of the adventures that it brings with touring new plays, which brings me nicely onto my next topic.

Getting your work out there. This is fucking hilarious as a subject. I remember reading Yahoo Message Boards, do you remember those? I do, before they got taken over by porn adverts. Anyway, I remember reading messages from writers asking if people wanted to perform their play. Equally, when I had a few followers on Twitter (a platform I gave up for reasons which I will go into later), people would contact me and ask if I could read their script, like I was a fucking expert and had 4,000 hours in a day. No! You need to do things for yourself, or get yourself a fucking good agent.

Some people do take matters into their own hands, but then give up within the year. I've lost count for the number of times I've observed touring theatre companies pop up as the next big thing only to disappear one show later.

Here's a statement to those who do not appreciate this:

Running a touring theatre company is literally the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life.

You'll deal with venues who have yet to understand what an invoice is, or what a credit note is when they invoice you too much. You'll deal with people from all walks of life, which is a polite way of saying you'll manage a wide range of egos, including your own, all thrown together into a small rehearsal space / cupboard, a space that you've had to beg somebody relentlessly for. You'll have to manage twenty five things at once. Be a babysitter. Lead by example. Work harder than you've ever worked before. Be positive all the fucking time even though you know that your latest play is the worst you've ever written and that you're flogging a dead horse going into a competitive festival. Even if you really do believe in the play, you'll maybe still end up runners up because you're not mates with the judge, who just so happens to be the husband of that director from a rival show... possibly.

Disclaimer - Nine out of ten festivals are actually not like this. The results are always fair and not influenced by any external or internal forces at play.

Let's talk about festivals... I have a fair amount of experience with drama festivals.

Festivals should keep youth theatre and adult theatre separated. I mean, literally, fucking separate the bastards completely. A festival judge shouldn't judge a youth play against an adult play. It's not fair. Equally, a good judge will provide only constructive feedback. Now, this has not always been the case from experience, in fact, I recall a time when a youth theatre performance was heavily criticised by a judge, leaving all the children crying off stage. What an absolute fucking cunt that guy was.

A note to parents here, there is nothing better than getting your child up onto a stage. Really! It builds up their confidence no end. It's a brilliant thing. However, don't be a twat, don't force your child who clearly does not feel comfortable on a stage to be on a stage. A festival will destroy them. It'll eat them up and spit them out.

Generally however, I have full respect for those who run these festivals, often without pay. That's a bloody challenging task. Without festivals, my touring theatre company possibly wouldn't have a output.

Promotion... promotion... promotion...

So, today, I decided to Google playwright websites. I sometimes like to see what other competitors, I mean what my fellow colleagues are up to. I like to check out their websites and I have to say, most are fucking shit, mine included, because you know what, it's really fucking hard to put together a website that ticks all the boxes! Ask any creative person. A writers website needs to be simple yet complex. It needs content to run on multiple devices. It needs to have an integrated store... blah blah blah. It's just so fucking hard to get right! Equally, some writers get it badly badly wrong (possibly myself included).

Social media was always the way, but over time I worked out that having 50,000 twitter followers didn't mean a thing. Literally, my play sales stayed the same, my website visitor numbers stayed consistently the same. It's just not really worth the effort unless you're plugging a show, and even then it'll possibly only make a minor difference to your numbers because --

Most of your audience are friends and family members to those involved in a production! #fact

So this is where I've shifted my mindset recently. Why spend most of your time promoting yourself when, really, most of your time should be spent writing, and it's here where my philosophy has really dramatically changed.

Equally, I just cannot stand the self focus drive of social media anymore. Such a self absorbed world that I was so very part of until I was unplugged from the Matrix recently.

The whole Instagram thing irks me. I still love writing, more than ever, but I've fallen out of love with the self promotional side. I feel bad asking my friends and family to pay a nominal fee for a ticket to one of my shows. I actually feel like the biggest ass in the world when I do that. I don't think anybody really cares about my writing really, apart from me obviously, but that's fine because I love to write, with or without an audience, although clearly, I'd prefer to have an audience.