A Writer’s Motivations: So Many Ideas, So Little Time

What’s that, muse in my head?  You have an idea for a play?

What is it!  I’m excited to hear.  You always have such interesting ideas for plays and 3:49 A.M. on a Tuesday.  Wait, what was it?  It’s a… three-act twelve-character period-costume comedy-drama… in verse?

Muse, you crazy!

No one is gonna produce some over-the-top-ness like that.  I mean, sure, there ain’t no One Thing that everyone produces nowadays, but there are a couple a trends and popular menu items… yer Mary Zimmerman stripped-down reinterpreted myths, yer three-character unusual-setting hilarious but dark dramedy, yer quirky New York character play, yer big-concept play about racial collisions in corporate America or a mother whose daughter is a literal ghost or something… definitely no 3A,12C,P-C, C-D verse plays in there.  Nobody does that.

But what’s that, you say?  You’ve got like twelve other ideas?  An inside-out murder mystery?  A sci-fi spaceship play?  A horror play for adults?  A time-skipping political treatise in play form?  A celebrity-centric comedy of manners?  A musical about bugs?  Oh, and a three-character unusual-setting hilarious but dark dramedy to boot?

Muses of the Greek persuasion

I certainly can’t tackle all of those, muse!  ‘Specially not, considering 1) I gotta job that takes up most of my day, 2) as an unknown playwright, I gotta really hit the nail on the head with whatever I do because there’s no interest in flawed experiments from unknowns, and 3) I don’t wanna go nuts & by the time I were to finish doing ALL of these you’da come up with forty more.

So.  Yeah.  Hmmmmm, I wonder which one I should pick…

But gee, muse, don’t gimme that.  I know the old advice — be true to yourself In All Things.  Write what you Feel.  Be what you Write.  Excite the Page.  You can’t Force It.  You can’t Fake It.  If it comes From Your Heart, and it’s Good, people will Flock To It, whatever It is.  Yes, even if it’s Totally Crazy and Naively Over-the-Top.  You’ll stand out!  Standing out is good, standing out is what you want!  That’s the argument, right, muse?

Well I call BS!  Who’s to say, muse, that at the very very leastest until I’ve done a whole draft of any one of these ideas of yours, that any of them might not turn out to be the One That Comes From My Heart?  If I’m a real honest-to-goodness craftsman, can’t I make any of them Good?  Shouldn’t I be a littttllleee teeny bit practical, and pick the inspiration that’s most sellable?  Like, if all your ideas are songs in the album of my Potential Writing Projects, shouldn’t the first single be the catchiest tune?

Van MorrisonThere’s an order to these things?

Okay, you’re right.  I suppose if I just Go With The Flow, even if it Takes Some Time, then I’ll naturally groove into whichever projects are really the From The Heart ones.  It sucks to wait, but it sucks more to try and second-guess ahead of time what will work, and work on it, and find it doesn’t hit the target despite all the This-Is-Totally-What-People-Want planning.

But is that assuming that the target (the ‘target’ being production and positive attention, for those playing the home game) is a tiny little thing?  Isn’t there plenty of target to hit?  I don’t have to bulls-eye right away.  If I Fake It and can at least manage to graze the outer ring with a Kind of Crappy But Generally Effective iteration of Current Popular Style 3.2.9, then I can use that bit of attention to support me in my subsequent, Heartfelt endeavor.  Thus, Fake It Till I Make It.

Or am I just going in circles now?

Muse, I’ll just take a break for tonight.  Sleep this one off.  Maybe I’ll have a dream and it’ll like direct me or somethin, or maybe whichever idea is still actually in my head tomorrow will be the winner by default.  All I know is all this thinkin about spendin hours upon hours writing and pouring at least my melted brains, if not my sanded heart, into a project, is pretty emotionally dauntin, and that’s before I’ve even put a word to paper.  Maybe this is a problem that Goes Away When You Have Clout.  Maybe then, the Knowledge that Someone Will Produce Whatever You Do will let you just straight up Follow The Heart… but probably not.  Probably this always will trouble you and stifle any attempt to find the real gold in all these grains of ideas.  (Cuz you just never rest, muse, do you?)

But I’m gonna pretend that if I can just pick the Right Idea for my Breakout Play everything will be peachy roses from there out, cuz otherwise I’m never gonna type a single word.

So f*** it.  I’ll do the 3A,12C,P-C, C-D verse play.  At least then if I fail, I can blame my choice of genre vis-a-vis what genres get produced right now… instead of myself.

Cuz I’d never blame you, muse.



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