This article made me cry, a deep choking heaving silent cry. However, it wasn't the advice that Phillip Roth gave to writer Julian Tepper that set me off, because Roth only spoke the truth:
"Quit while you're ahead. Really, it's an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it's not any good. I would say just stop now. You don't want to do this to yourself. That's my advice to you."
I cried because Roth has walked away from his writing. While absolutely brilliant, Roth's writing doesn't sing my heart the way that Jose Rivera, John Guare, Adrienne Kennedy, Amparo Garcia Crow, Lynn Nottage, Shay Youngblood and Zadie Smith and so many others do. So, these were not tears of sorrow for the loss of a voice that has guided my artistic journey. I cried because I cannot fathom doing what Roth has decided to do. I cannot conceive of walking away so entirely from my writing.
I am at the place where writing drives every single aspect of my day. Where words, sounds, dreams, gestures, art, music, moments in history and overheard bits of dialogue push me towards a new play whether I want to be there or not. The idea of not writing--of not wanting to write, of being prevented from writing, of characters no longer coming to me to have their stories told--truly terrifies and deeply saddens me. His ability to do so made me mourn for a day that might one day come for me.
Of course, I do remember a time when I took a break from my writing ... In 2009, I participated in Round House Theatre’s Silver Spring Series where I produced a workshop production of my play ANNA K. Two days after the show closed, I went into rehearsal for a full production of DEEP BELLY BEAUTIFUL as part of the Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, where I served as co-producer. Both were under the auspices of theHegira, a wonderful company whose spirit and artistic director, I believe in quite strongly and passionately.
It was an absolutely extraordinary and life changing experience. It pushed me past all limits of physical, emotional, mental and psychological exhaustion and into a wasteland. After it was all said and done, I had nothing left. I was unrecognizable to myself. I didn't want to create in this space and don't think I could've if I had tried. For the sake of my sanity and craft, I took the summer off. It was such a big and scary decision, because it meant that for the first time since the summer of 1997, I wouldn't be writing a new play and I was afraid I might not be able to come back to it. I was so frightened that I bought myself a commitment to writing ring (pictured above).
I wear this ring every day. When I slip it on, I give thanks to the muses for their gift. I don't ever take it for granted that they have their whim and fancy as we all do, and might one day decide to leave me. But I don't know what the future holds. I can't predict the life experiences that might shift my focus, love and dedication away from this craft. But today is a day that I write. And I am grateful.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!