Advice for Aspiring Playwrights

By Jen Huszcza

Recently, the LA Times reported about a meeting between a young novelist and Philip Roth in a deli. The novelist, John Tapper, had passed on his first novel to Roth and was looking for advice and inspiration.

Roth reportedly said:

Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say stop now.

Likewise, I would say to folks who dream of being playwrights, stop. If you gotta do it because of some fire in your belly or blinding light in your brain, well, you’re doomed. If you throw crap out into the world, you’ll feel like a sellout. If you work hard on something with all the best intentions, you will probably be ahead of your time.

Whatever you do, you will probably despise some aspect of your work or yourself. Sure, there’s drinking, drugs, facebook, and therapy, but none of those will put the words on the page for you.

Sure you might love language or love the theatre or love cinema. But at some point, you will hate all that, and you’ll only be left with yourself. And you’ll wonder, why the hell didn’t I become a rocket scientist? I had the grades. 

Still, the writing continues. It has to continue because you have no choice. You have to finish one play because there is something in it that will help you write the next play. You have to finish another play because you promised it to an actor friend of yours who is super talented. You have to think about that next play because it’s a thought that’s interesting. Then, when that is done, then you can stop. Of course, unless, something else has to be written.

2 Comments

  • By June Guralnick, July 12, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

    I’m sitting in a literary hall of fame. Part of the resources available to me as I do a writer’s residency. Instead of working, I’m wondering why the hell I even write plays since the market has gone bust for most of us. So to avoid the script at hand, I waste some time reading a few blogs; came across yours. Wow! You hit the proverbial head on the nail. I better get back to work now:)).

  • By Dee Jae Cox, July 12, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

    Loved it. Such truth. It’s the fire in the belly and the blinding light in the brain that gets me every time.

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