Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's What You Do not Where You Live

While cavorting around various Playwright websites and Twitter accounts, I noticed a particular trend among some writers and that is to attach a location to their vocation such as:
New York City Playwright!
OK. And? So?
Yes I know, living in NYC affords you certain opportunities as a playwright such as...umm.. Ok yea, access to a plethora of independent theatre works, artists and other trendy inspirational fuel that setting up camp in Des Moines would not afford you.
All right, I get that, but still - does that make you a better writer?
I've known several people who declared their calling to be a writer. They immediately deem it necessary to decorate their writing desk with a bottle of bourbon and a pack of filter-less cigarettes and dream of moving to NY or Paris. Because, you know, that's what writers do. That's how they roll.
Also, writers wears second-hand tweed sport coat with leather patches, chinos or a long black overcoat with a well worn copy of a Kalfka or Camus paperback in the pocket. Grow a beard and top it off with a beret. And then you need to hang out in coffee shops or better yet, outdoor cafes talking to other writers, exchanging witty literary jokes and criticisms about John Dos Passos and Henry Miller. Of course, however esoteric it gets, you pretend to understand. What's important at this point is to "look" like a writer and do and say "writer" things.

Yes, OK, I am profiling just a tad here, but the truth is - I have known (and still know) these people, these "writers". And what have they written you may ask? Go ahead, ask! Well, nothing yet, but believe you me, they do have the lifestyle down! Oh yes indeed! They are in love with the "look" and "lifestyle" of a self declared artist, but do they love the actual art itself? Well, truth is they're just "friends" right now.
Most have a play or a book they are working on and yes, they have been working on it for years. It's sitting in a shallow pile of papers on their desk. It's under the bourbon bottle right next to the ashtray.

And yes I admit it! I was one of those pretensive chotchkies sitting around with my head full of Kerouac, Vonnegut, Herman Hesse, and Dostoevsky, sipping on Seagrams listening to Coletrane and Charlie Parker at an outdoor bistro in the West End of St. Louis, (which was only a few blocks from the apartment where Tennessee Williams had lived and based the location for "The Glass Menagerie" -how cool was that right? Because you know, proximity breeds talent.)
I could talk for hours about literature and even pretend I fully understood Thomas Pynchon and James Joyce. Back in those days, I believed that's what writers did! (Which was everything but writing.) But hey, I had the lifestyle thing down. And sure, I dreamed of moving to New York, just so I could add that "brand" to my psyche.

I'm not sure when I woke up from that dream, but one day, I sat down and just started writing. No bourbon or smokes. No tweed and Chinos. No cafes and Coletrane. I just wrote.
And I discovered what I really loved was the actual process of writing. I enjoyed creativity and imagination. It didn't matter what I was wearing, drinking or really even really where I lived. After all, my creativity lived inside my mind, it didn't live in a particular city or have a specific lifestyle. Being a writer was being alone in a room putting thoughts down on paper, it really didn't matter what skyline loomed outside my window.
One of my old "artsy" friends from college named Jason Wells has done very well for himself as a screen actor and a playwright. No he doesn't live in LA or New York, he lives in Chicago.

I know playwrights who live in Louisiana, Montana and yes even Des Moines. They all do very well because the bottom line is their talent and inspiration lives in their thoughts not their city.

Of course I realize that generations of playwrights will still dream of living in New York and hanging out at Elaine's discussing Bergman with Woody, a small part of me is still in love with that fantasy, but really, I've moved on to being more than just "friends" with the art of writing than I am with the style of living.