Step Back, Shut Up, Fuck Off

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I began this one initially as a plea to playwrights. Having had the pleasure of seeing a bunch of my one-acts produced across the U.S. (even some of a more ‘adult’ nature) I thought maybe I could pass along salient advice for scribes of the stage. But then as I explored the idea of what I wanted to say here I realized what I wanted to expound upon might just be applicable to all writers, to all people actually who create a thing from whole cloth and put that thing out for the masses to enjoy or purchase.

This falls well beyond the advice I gave about knowing when to “fold ‘um” as opposed to knowing when to “hold ‘um” when it comes to letting the thing you create just be, consider it done as opposed to picking at it. Or that should-I-or-should-I? conundrum over editing something yet again. What I am on about here is the tired old need writers/musicians/actors/creatives-in-general have to yawp a good game about what they do, have just done, or might be presently giving forth.

You see this lots of times when a singer/songwriter sits down to play a song but spends more time talking about the song’s inspiration. You get it lots of times when you ask an actor about his or her latest performance and they all too quickly rifle off their resume. So many writers are all too happy to tell you about the lives of their fictional characters and plenty more people will give out the specifics of their websites, Facebook page Instagram or Twitter handle, well before you even ask for it. But to me, this kind of self-promotion white noise feels like desperation to me (kind of like how the populace seems to have an addiction to posting every idea, vacation pic and political rant…but don’t get me started on the epidemic of narcissism birthed by social media).

I understand, we who create stuff and get it out there (and I think everybody creates stuff, all of us are artists in some sense, so I don’t hold musicians, actors, writers, etc. in a higher regard than anybody else) feel we need to consistently show ourself, be seen and heard above everybody else trying to be seen and heard, have to claw and fight to perform or win that audition. I understand that there will come more rejection, than there ever we be acceptance. But one comes from an infinitely stronger base, reveals the confidence of one’s convictions, if we just do the thing and don’t talk about the thing, unless you are asked to talk about the thing by people who want to hear about your doing, or are paying for you to do it.

Let me give you and example which will tie this all up neatly in a bow, I hope.

Going back to my playwriting. I have found infinite pleasure in this kind of writing, not only because I get to hear my words spoken, out loud, but because I can instantly judge their impact by an immediate reaction, or no reaction, from an audience. And quite a few times in the community theatres that have ‘put up’ my plays, there’s been a Q&A after the performance, where audiences are invited to ask directors, actors and writers questions. For a writer especially, this public airing can be both fun and unnerving. We get to come out into the light beyond our garret and react to real human beings, but at the same time that light can be blinding when somebody starts asking you about what you meant by this and that when you might not have a clear answer. Luckily, from my performance background, especially playing music for kids, the toughest audiences you are ever likely to meet, I am pretty quick on my toes and mostly I lead with humor, which diffuses even the most serious, deep diving questions.

But in these instances, I am being asked to expound. In writing classes, the website that initially ran the columns that make up a bulk of this book, somebody has come to seek my consul, asked me my opinion. I shouldn’t be lurking around backstage before a performance jawing with the actors of my play or having a chat with the director or even attend a rehearsal unless I have been invited (which I have been, but still meter my time out and about judiciously). I try and just sing my song with the requisite pyrotechnics and not talk about it too much and when I come upon somebody reciting their resume on the many books they have published with this or that publisher, I nod and compliment them on their good fortune, but have to need to compete with what I have had published myself.

As I come to re-read my works above I realize that this column is less a piece about some aspect of writing as it is the social aspect of the craft. But if and when you get the chance, and maybe even when you don’t, I say step back, shut up and generally just fuck off.







Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here