Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Existential Crisis vs. Synchronicity

Well, this might be a strange post. I'm in a weird space just this minute. See, here's the story. For the last 12-15 hours, I've been in the grips of something of an existential dilemma. Or something like it. I went to a tech rehearsal for my next show and, well, it was distinctly underwhelming. Really, completely underwhelming. But then, you know, to be honest, I always feel like this. Like "...So...that's it, huh?" after these things. I don't get transported or really touched, I find myself focussing on the little stuff, the flubbed and paraphrased lines, which really drive me crazy. My work is very, very conversational and casual, but very much on purpose, with design. When I hear a "y'know" out of place, it drives me a little nuts, because it screws up the flow of the line, the sound of it. It's a difficult position to be in: trying hard to capture the sound of people talking, but sweeten it up, change it ever so slightly (or not) to make it sound better, different, more...whatever it is that makes it a play and not improv. So there's always that, because, at this level (or probably at any level) there's never enough time to really get this stuff nailed. And that's just it, that's a whole part of the problem: the phrase "at this level".

I've been struggling with this for a while now. I'm an early-career playwright, which means that most of the work I'm doing is done for no money in tiny theatres, and, more likely than not, to an audience made up of friends and family (if not of me, of the other people involved). And that's great and beautiful and I love it and I'm totally, completely sick to death of it. I want to kick up a level, be in a place where I don't have to worry about whether or not my friends like me enough to come see my show. Or maybe you never get to that level. I don't know.

But it all feels so...unfulfilling somehow. Small and kind of empty and it's frustrating, because what are my options, you know. Yesterday, I gave myself off from writing and I felt so relieved and relaxed and I had to wonder, what the hell am I fighting so hard for? What the hell am I killing myself, straining over every line and trying to make it sound right, the way I want it to sound, when actors are just going to say the lines they can remember and fill in the space with whatever comes to mind? When, if I'm lucky, we'll be playing to one real person per show, one person who's not there out of some obligation? When, again, if I'm lucky, I can hope to be not trashed by some online critic somewhere? What the hell am I fighting for all the time?

Being a writer can feel like this plexiglass bubble that stands between you and the world. Like being the Boy In The Bubble: able to see the world and to an extent, interact with it, but always at a remove, at a distance. Which is wonderfully paradoxical, since we're supposed to be living life and interacting and gaining experience to write about. I don't know, I think that somewhere along the line, that myth, the one of the brawling, boozing, passionately living writer, the Henry Miller/Ernest Hemingway ideal, got abandoned, in favor of the cool, dispassionate observer. Somewhere between the New Journalism and the modern, introspective novel, the whole thing turned around. And sometimes I wonder where I really stand in all of that. I admire the idea of hard livin', hard drinkin' and telling tall tales, but that comes with the price: early death. (Personally, I think this is a larger, cultural thing, and, at least in recent years, stems from Kurt Cobain's suicide, as the end of the rock persona and the aggrandizement of hard living (I don't know if I'm using the right word there, but it's a nice one, anyway.).) Early death isn't what I've signed on for.

So...what the fuck, right? What does it mean? I don't know. But here's what happened. Today, which despite clear, beautiful skies and bounty of winter sunlight, despite having gone to the doctor to get the results of some (minor) bloodwork and got a much cleaner bill of health than I expected, despite that, I'm in a crappy mood and want to crawl back in bed, pull the sheets over my head and wake up living in San Francisco. I'm sitting here, listeing to a random assortment of music and just as I started this post, a Wilco song came on: "A Shot in the Arm" with the refrain, "maybe all I need is a shot in the arm". Despite my existential leanings, I'm a believer in synchronicity, in signs and wonders and the simple, frightening truth that the universe gives us exactly what we ask for. And I can't think of anything that displays that more than a song which perfectly sums up my subtext and which includes in it a little sliver of hope. That maybe all I need is a shot in the arm.


Post a Comment

<< Home