Playwright Information Center

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I really appreciate Playscripts and their work toward creating better theater and theater experiences for all. Jay Muldoon Theater Teacher, Fairfield, OH
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9 Playwrights Share Their Advice for Aspiring Writers

Over the years, we’ve had the chance to speak with numerous playwrights about their craft. One question we love to ask writers is what their advice would be for writers starting out—what wisdom they might impart to their younger selves. Here, we share with you some of that advice.

“Keep writing. Find people you want to work with who inspire you. Keep asking questions, keep pushing yourself. Stay curious. The world is big and strange and wondrous. Explore. And as you do, try to be kind to yourself and to others. Also, be patient. Writing is a lifelong process. There will be times of great motion and times of stillness. My son plays baseball, and there is a fair share of failure. He’s learning that lesson and it’s a hard lesson. But he’s also learning what it feels like to hit a triple or turn a great double play. Most of all, he’s learning the sublime rhythm and beauty of the game, he’s learning about all the greats who played the game before him, and the privilege of being part of that tradition. I think baseball and playwriting are not so different from one another.”

Naomi Iizuka

“It’s OK to fail, just don’t be boring.” —Jen Silverman

“Go see a lot of theater. When you find theater artists whose work makes you genuinely excited, keep going to see those artists’ work. See if you can work with them or work for them. If you love a playwright’s work, tell them and if they teach somewhere, take a class from them. Band together with other playwrights and other theater makers. Look at visual art, listen to music, read the newspaper, be curious, be a part of the world and be a good friend to the people you care about. Expand your ability to listen. Make ingenious writing exercises for yourself. Celebrate when you write something new and say thank you to those that help you make it. Keep applying to great opportunities—it took me 12 years to get into New Dramatists and I am so happy that I did not give up.”

Erin Courtney

“When you go to your play (performance or reading) watch the audience, not your play.”

William Missouri Downs

“Forgive yourself. No one anywhere ever has lived a perfect life, so take comfort in knowing you’re totally human. Make big, bold choices, and forgive yourself in advance if they don’t work out. And forgive those around you, too. We’re just as not-perfect as you are. Also, be patient. Theater is a waiting game. As I mention above, chosen relationships take time. Invest your time in the theater, make it a relationship, let it take the time it needs to grow into something fruitful. Don’t stop working, but do be patient. I mention forgiveness and patience as reminders to myself as well. Both are easier advised than practiced, I think.”

Philip Dawkins

“There’s no set path – everybody finds his or her own way, but I think the common denominator is about taking the word “aspiring” out of the job title. Whatever it is you aspire to do, spend as much time as possible actually doing it. Don’t wait for someone to give you a job; find a way to make the opportunity yourself. My other advice is to assemble a group of friends and collaborators whose artistry inspires you. Unlike Jane Austen who worked alone, theatre never happens that way. It requires collaboration with other people. And, at the end of the day, mastering the art of collaboration is the biggest challenge and the truest reward of working in the theatre.”

Eric Price

“Don’t be afraid to let your play suck. Let the play stink up the joint. Let it be miles from perfect. Then, very systemically, go about the business of fixing it all.”

Michael Mejias

“The most important thing for playwrights starting out — artistically and professionally — is to find your people. Whether that’s a writers lab, a group of actors, a theatre company, or the co-workers at your survival job, they will keep you alive and help you stay interested in your craft when no one else is. I have a long way to go as an artist and a professional, but I never could have gotten as far as I did without the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, The Lark, my YSD family, all the actors I write for over and over again, and all the other playwrights who share and exchange early sketches and drafts with me even when it’s garbage. I have them to thank for everything.”

A. Rey Pamatma

“In my first playwriting class my very brilliant teacher Sam Marks told me that my own resistance to writing meant that I might have something to say. I suppose before that I thought that my resistance meant that I was not suited to writing. To be told that it might mean the opposite gave me a great sense of permission and freedom. So my advice would be not to disqualify yourself from writing based on your resistance. To consider it as fuel. Or as a signal that it’s covering something quite loud that’s actually not that far under the surface and it’s waiting for you!”

Dipika Guha

Now get out there and write!

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