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Monday, March 10, 2014

WRITING ADVICE: Who Cares What People Think? (Or Don't Write With Anyone Whispering in Your Ear)

Emily Ciuffetelli as Kelly in a production of my play "End of the Movie"

Greetings to all of you writers and actors out there, young and not-so-young, and welcome to Theater is a Sport, my blog where I talk about all things theater that happen to pop up in my mind.  My name is Bobby Keniston, and I am a playwright, actor, director, and part-time drama teacher.

I sometimes wonder if Samuel Beckett's mother ever said to him, "Why can't you write a nice, ordinary play that everyone gets, huh?  What's with all the dark?  What's with all the crazy?  Can't you be a normal playwright, and write a sweet play about a lonely gal who meets a nice fella, and they wind up together at the end?  What's the matter with you?"

If she did, I'm glad he didn't listen to her.  We may have never had Waiting for Godot, or Happy Days.

I wonder if Eugene O'Neill ever had a friend say, "Gene, come on, already!  We get it... life's rough!  Give us a good comedy, huh?  And 'Ah, Wildnerness' doesn't count!"

It's not easy being human, and it's not easy being a writer, because our canvas, by and large, is humanity.  Writers, after all, are writing for human beings, and, more often than not, writing about the human experience (even if they're writing about Martians). 

And the human experience, along with being beautiful, can be ugly.  And scary.  And disturbing.  And dark.  And depressing. 

Playwrights, like all artists, often find themselves going into places that others do not necessarily wish to go, all for their art.  To some degree, I think it is almost the responsibility of the playwright to keep pushing themselves and challenging their audience.  Not just for the sake of doing so, of course, but for the sake of being honest, telling a true tale, and reflecting humanity (even some of the harder elements of it). 

When you sit down to write, sit down alone.  Don't let the sounds of your parents, friends, spouse, or children be whispering in your ears.  Of course you love these people.  Of course you want them to be proud of you.  But it is exceedingly difficult to write an honest play that comes from you if you are worried about disapproving voices. 

What will people think of me?

Who cares? 

Okay, so that's easier said than done, adopting an attitude of "who cares?", and, yes, I believe everyone cares at least a little bit what people think of them.  But honestly, if they don't like your play that deals with a murderer stalking single mothers in a small Midwestern town, then they can write their own play. 

If you are going to be a writer, you have to write from yourself.  You have to write with freedom.  You must let yourself go and see what happens.  You may have to fix things.  There will be a time for constructive criticism from others that will certainly help your play or story.  But constructive criticism does NOT include matters of personal taste. 

As a writer, your own inner voice, your muse (who dwells inside you), your inner idea manufacturer, has to be louder than the disapproving voices of others.  Writers can't seek approval from the masses--- it's a surefire way to never attain it. 

So be free, young and not-so-young writers.  If people think your nuts, then they clearly aren't fellow writers, thereby making their opinions on your writing far less valuable.  You can always just tell naysayers the simple truth:  "Hey, I'm working here.  Leave me alone."

So if you've been looking for permission to let loose in your latest composition, then consider granted by your truly, Bobby Keniston.

Remember:  write honestly, and theater is a sport.  See you next time.