I think every playwright has heard a few sayings when it comes to submissions and rejections.
“Rejection is just protection.”
“It’s not a ‘no,’ it’s a ‘not yet.’”
“You were rejected from this so you could achieve another…”
“It’s a game of numbers, the more you enter, the more your odds go up.”
My favorite: “Just keep submitting – every year – so, they get to know you through your drafts and variety of plays. They will start to recognize your name and watch your writing grow.” This piece of advice is something I have in fact given to students and other playwrights.
I truly believed it, or at least I wanted to. But, how do you know when it’s okay to keep believing and when to just face reality that maybe they're just not that into you?
Let me tell you what actually happened to me...
THE HUB: Loved your work and great application! Just didn’t see how this particular play you submitted speaks to what you described in your artistic statement.
ME: Okay, I will rewrite my artistic statement and make sure it relates to my submitted play.
I did what I always do…I submitted again. I figured a strong application and a well-liked play might make it in this time. After all, it is “a game of numbers,” right?
As of 2022, I received another, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
What am I missing? What am I not saying? What am I saying too much of (is that a thing?) What balance am I not striking? What is The Hub looking for, exactly? Do they want someone with a following? With multiple productions? With the “right” recommender? With the “right” work with the “right” workshops and affiliations that are just as prestigious as them?
This is the bigger question…should I just quit (submitting to them?)
Honestly, the time and effort put into their applications, finding different recommenders - every year - I could put that energy into a different playwriting submission somewhere else.
I’m really curious, is there ever a time you realized that it isn’t a “not yet.” That it isn’t “a game of numbers.” That it isn’t anything we were told? That maybe they’re just not that into you and you really should take the hint and move on.
Entry # 1
I began my playwriting “submission mission” back in 2016. I had always submitted to playwriting festivals here and there in the past, but in 2016 I had the confidence, the training, the body of work, and the resources to start becoming a professional play-submitter.
No. No Thanks. Nope. Nah. Hell No.
In fact, I have quit jobs like that and moved on to better opportunities that were more fulfilling or at least helped me pay my bills on time. So, why do I stay in this position where close to three-quarters of the time I hear the word, “no?” The truth is, I don’t know why I keep coming back. Why do I keep on this “submission mission” when every rejection only makes that number grow and that 71% gets heavier and heavier. I feel like I'm rolling a boulder up a hill, but I’ll never reach the top.
You want to know what makes that boulder even heavier? I’m not the only one. Think about that 71% and increase that exponentially. This isn’t meant to guilt trip anyone who gets accepted, or wins an award, or makes it to the final round (seriously, congrats!) But the reason I’m sharing this is because that’s all we ever hear about. We only hear about the wins. The highlights. Including from me. Of course it is important to celebrate the wins. They’re amazing! But it’s so important to remember we are all carrying boulders. Maybe if we shared those boulders, they wouldn’t be so heavy.
One of the best pieces of advice I've received as a playwright in terms of the role of the playwright was the following, (I'm paraphrasing a little):
Other artistic collaborators, like actors and designers, must wait until they are provided an opportunity. Once actors, directors, and designers are given a script or an ensemble, then they can practice their art by interpreting the work on the page and transforming it on the stage.
Playwrights do not have to wait. The only permission we need is from ourselves to practice our art. As a result, we should use this privilege or freedom to assist our fellow artistic collaborators in flexing their interpretive muscles. After all, without them, our work dies on the page. Actors, designers, directors, dramaturges, stage managers, all of them give our work life. We owe it to them for breathing life into our words. So, we must create.
BUT...I LOVE this story. I LOVE these characters. And I want to see how far I can go. I didn't wait for someone to give me permission to start writing this podcast series. I am a creative artists and I am giving myself permission to write this podcast series - with mistakes, flaws, plot holes, missed beats, and all.
One of the best pieces of advice I can bestow upon new playwrights is to keep creating even if you think no one is watching. Playwrights at the beginning of their careers have shared with me that they stop creating after one or two plays. They then spend years advocating for this one play. They refuse to move on and stop practicing their art until this one play gets published, produced, etc... Please do not do this. Do not push aside new ideas, observations, outlines, scribbles on paper because you MUST cling to this one play. Embrace those thoughts, put pen to paper, open the laptop, and get to writing the NEXT play. Even if no one is watching. Do it for your future collaborators, but must importantly, do it for yourself.
I have no clue how to construct a podcast, let alone write a series for it. But, I'm not here to be an expert. I'm here because I have a story.
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About the Blog
I write plays. I tell stories. I create content. I vent. I offer advice. I hope people will learn from my mistakes.