Friday, April 2, 2004
Cloudy and cold
I am a writer in transition. I’ve kept a journal since I was ten. I haven’t been ten for quite awhile. This journal is specific to my writer’s journey. How do events in my life and work fit together? How do they break apart? Is it possible to limit the self-indulgence in a journal? I hope that this journal will help me figure out the transition and make it a little less painful. And maybe it will help other writers or other people in transition.
Today was a day of screaming frustration. Not because of writer’s block – I’m far too busy for writer’s block, and, besides, I don’t believe in it.
I realized today that I am not going to have the smooth, gradual transition out of a two-career life (theatre and writing) into a single career life (writing).
I’ve begged for such a lovely, rational, smooth passage. And I’ve been refused.
It’s going to be painful, agonizing, jolting. It’s difficult enough trying to redefine myself out of something that I’ve been doing my entire adult working life. My identity has always been caught up in the theatre. Some people know me only as a writer. Some people know me as both. Few people at the Broadway show on which I currently swing know that I write at all.
(For those of you non-theatre folk, a “swing” is a substitute. I go in and learn what each individual dresser does – each person’s duties during a show are called a “track”, and then when someone is sick or on vacation, I pop in and am the custodian of the track).
And yet, I’ve written since I was six years old. I moved away from writing in my twenties for about ten years. I never stopped writing, but it was private writing, not public writing. But writing is breathing to me, and I refuse to let anyone cut off my oxygen supply.
I’ve carved a solid career for myself in the theatre. And yet, my life is moving in a different direction. It reminds me of Mary Catherine Bateson’s wonderful book, COMPOSING A LIFE. In it, she compares life to a symphony, with different movements that build on each other. The theatre movement is coming to a close for me.
I made a choice several months ago that I would not pursue full-time theatre work. My writing is well-received, with an expanding audience. The commitment on the serials forces me to write at least 6000 words per week, and, with the other projects I juggle, I’d say I write anywhere from 10,000 words a week and up.
This week is particularly tough. I’m in for all eight shows, with extended hours. I have two episodes each of three serials to write. And I’m rewriting two magazine articles. I’m waiting to hear back from interview sources. I’m on deadline, and I don’t want to pester them, but I need answers. I’m fact checking to make sure the historical details are accurate. I will probably have to do some more on-site research and interviewing next week. I have thank you notes to write to my sources.
I have book reviews to write. I need to work on the column. I have the first draft of a new play to get done by May 1.
I have two websites to get up, and I can’t get Yahoo Site Builder to do what I want. Nor do they reply to my questions.
I’ve given up trying to prepare something for the Marguerite di Angeli prize this year.
I have several longish stories to prepare, and article queries to write.
I did manage two episodes of the mystery, some research for the articles, and a press release. A decent day’s work, but not enough in my situation.
I don’t have time to be in eight shows a week, and I’ll have to be very careful about how much work I agree to take on, theatre-wise, in the next few months.
I feel like I’m standing with a foot strapped on two different cars. They’re racing down the highway at top speed, with me trying to keep my balance. And each car is about to turn off a different exit.
I have to make a decision.
In my heart and soul, I’ve made my decision.
That means a financial hit, when finances aren’t my strong suit anyway.
But if I make my decisions based out of fear, than I don’t deserve to succeed.
How badly do I want this?
Badly enough to vent my frustration by yelling, screaming, and throwing things. Now that I’ve released some of that stress, I can start to sit down and rationally set up a plan.
“I’m having a nervous breakdown,” I told my friend P. on the phone.
A moment of silence. “Do you need me to drive you to a clinic or something?” He asked. He’s very solution-oriented.
“Not yet. But I’ll let you know.”
A short pause. “You haven’t watched enough hockey lately. That’ll make you feel better.”
“Yes. That must be it.”