What Are Your Playwright Best Practices?


“…being a playwright is hard. One of my profs once said to me you have to work hard at it for at least 10 years before you start to see any movement.”
Advice For Playwrights Starting Out by Adam Szymkowicz

I read that bit of insight when I was starting out in this genre and let me tell you it lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I may be alone here, but the knowledge that it was a marathon and not a sprint was reassuring; it calibrated my expectations, if you will. And I understood more clearly that this genre required not only talent, but perseverance.

“Actually, I’m an overnight success. But it took twenty years.”
–Monty Hall

I consider my playwright start year 2006. That’s when I officially began to focus solely on playwriting and transitioned from my old genre of Poetry.

That means I’m about five years in. And recently, while assessing my year in general, I began to wonder: am I doing everything I can so that I begin to see that movement?

So I’ve decided to ask my peers. I thought a collective brainstorm on playwright best practices would help me, and others, develop a blueprint for our respective careers.

To start off the conversation on best practices I thought I’d share one of my own.

Write A Work Plan

I got this idea from an article in Theatre Bay Area magazine. In the piece an actor was describing how they write a plan for each year to map out their goals.

Perhaps it’s because my 9 to 5 job had just finished our own massive yearly work plan, but the idea suddenly made so much sense to me. I needed a tool to help me articulate my writing goals (overall and monthly), a way to see my own progress (that I was taking scripts to their next drafts), and map out professional goals.

So I wrote a work plan and I published it on my blog. I did this for two reasons: 1) I blog about my writing process so including my playwriting work plan made perfect sense and 2) I wanted to create some sense of accountability for myself and declaring all my goals in a public space seemed the best way to keep the pressure on myself to stick to my work plan.

How does it work?

Well, first it’s a living document, which means I can add to it if a new opportunity pops up. And secondly, I do quarterly check in’s where I blog an update on all the goals that should have been met by the end of said quarter.

Has it helped?

Absolutely! This year I feel more productive and in control of my playwriting life than ever. Why? Well, I feel more productive because I’m documenting all the rewrites, new drafts and first drafts of my plays. And I have a list of all the festivals, competitions and other submissions I’ve sent off. I feel more in control because I’m mapping out my progress month to month, planning how I’ll spend my limited free time and energy on playwriting.

What Are Your Playwright “Must Do’s”?

While my work plan has helped me shape my yearly progress, I recently found myself feeling a bit uncertain. I realized that it’s not enough for me to make personal progress as a playwright (that is to improve in my craft and expand my repertoire of work), I need to articulate a blueprint for my career. I need a meta work plan, if you will.

Only, I wasn’t sure what to include in that blueprint.

That’s when I decided to go to you, my peers. To ask you, when it comes to your career:

  • What are your playwright best practices?
  • What are your playwright “must do’s”?

I’m hoping we can all take to the Comments section and build an idea bank that we can go to whenever we’re trying to figure out what’s next for our careers, whenever we’re feeling uncertain and are looking for something tangible to focus our sights on.

While I know that best practices aren’t necessarily a one size fits all kind of thing, that we’ll each have to personalize someone else’s idea/concept, I think it’s important to articulate for ourselves and others exactly how we’re leveraging the resources at our disposal to see the movement we desire.

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.

  • September 22, 2011
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