Sara Israel, January 4, 2011
Happy 2011 everyone!
Last week was the time when many people—myself included—crafted some New Year’s resolutions. (This week is the time when you are bombarded with advertisements and Yahoo “articles” about how you can stick to those resolutions.)
I won’t subject you to my quotidian stuff like not running yellow lights, but here are my four Writer Resolutions for this year.
Reading Is Fundamental: There is so much I am compelled to read (namely other people’s scripts and research for my own writing) that too often I neglect what I want to read just because. You know, as a human being rather than as a writer. But of course, being a human being and a writer are intertwined—and so when I do get to the “just because” it always infuses me with creative energy. Why do I so often forget this?
In 2011 I will read whatever the heck I want, whenever I want. I won’t worry about the work. The work will get done; it always does.
Quality Over Quantity, Part One: In 2010, I attended a ten-minute play festival in support of my friend and very talented playwright. I thought the performance of her piece went pretty well. She saw it, uh. . . differently. Afterwards she declared, “I’ve padded my resume enough. I’m through with ten-minute play festivals.”
Her throw-down strikingly articulated something I had already been thinking about: What is the benefit of having your work done if it is not done well? For me, one of the biggest challenges of being a writer of work that exists to be performed is that typically I have minimal control over the performance. But here’s what I can control: Who I let perform it in the first place.
In 2011, I will continue my trend of being an informed bestower—aware of who is asking and the quality of their past work. And I will not feel guilty if, once I think about those aspects honestly, my answer is “no.” I will approach this on a case-by-case basis, aware that each potential situation brings with it a different cost-benefit analysis. But I will always remember that the text is mine to give.
As writers we are conditioned to simply be grateful that anyone wants to perform our work at all. This is ridiculous. We create valuable commodities, and it is our right—and I think our responsibility—to share them intelligently and strategically.
Corollary: I will not pass judgment on my writer friends who do not adopt this approach. However, I can no longer invest the emotional and literal time in nursing them back to health when they suffer the consequences.
Quality Over Quantity, Part Two: I saw more than 40 full theater productions in 2010, most of them right here in Los Angeles. I was participating as an awards voter, and took the organization’s mantra to heart that I should use the opportunity to seek out new-to-me theater companies and artists. It wasn’t until that experience was completed—and once I’d detoxed from it a bit—that I realized what a toll it took on me as an artist.
The truth is, with most of what I saw in 2010, the best you could say is that it was sometimes “good enough.” A really great actor-performance here. A really cool light cue there. An interesting premise. A well-detailed costume. A plucky use of the space.
Some informative experiences, but “informative” is different than “inspiring.”
I love theater because of its ability to inspire. But when it inspires me, it does so because everything—everything—about it is excellent, and the artists are collaborating together with a singular understanding and vision to create that excellence.
It also turns out that when you’re seeing too much “good enough,” even that starts to feel like less than “good enough.” And that, in fact, is anti-inspiring.
In 2011, I will only see productions that I truly want to see. I’m now confident that I am a well-informed theater-goer, and that I also know who to count on as my smart and savvy theater friends who will help me fill in the gaps. Of course, not everything can be inspiring, but I can make my 2011 yield far, far better.
Dish-Pan Hands: In 2011, I will wash my dishes every single day. This sounds quotidian, doesn’t it? And I promised you I wasn’t including quotidian here. But, for me, dishwashing is really fertile creative-thinking time. I’ve known this for years. So why don’t I already do my freakin’ dishes every day? It’s probably because, unlike tennis, regardless of the benefits, washing them is still a chore.
Here’s to creativity and success—in both writing and chores—for the coming year.