Managing expectations…..

One of my dear friends emailed me for some advice:

As a writer, when you were starting out, how do you manage your expectations?

It’s a question I’m familiar with – we don’t have to be ‘an emerging writer’ to struggle with the often gaping chasm between what we anticipate or hope for, and what actually transpires. Theatre is sadly not necessarily a meritocracy, although there are plenty of encouraging stories to keep the faith alive…

My friend also asked about dealing with the feeling of emptiness that can follow a project coming to an end, with perhaps no promise of a next step, be that production, touring, etc.

After I answered my friend, she suggested it would be good fodder for a blog, so I have filleted our conversations to share with others. My comments are based solely on my own experiences and beliefs – but I hope that along the way they may be useful for others…

  • define your own idea of success – don’t be swayed by others or what you feel you should be doing/feeling/getting…. Imagine you are creating a library of your work and always keep your eyes on the horizon ie, your own definition of success – most importantly, your own definition of what you want to write, what you want to achieve, what constitutes a career in your own eyes, what you want to communicate with the world.
  • what we do is important and has significance in our own lives. Expect to be upset, to be down when something is finished, and frustrated by what is unknown…. There are so many scripts I have written I would love to go further, have more productions, be readily available through publishing… All I can do is make contact with other artists and theatres and organisations – find my allies – those who love my work and ‘get’ me as an artist – and find those whose work I love and whom I would love to work with. Then it’s about trying to make relationships and it can take a long time – opportunities are scarce and may never come up – but it’s a network, and I try to avoid isolation by supporting those whose work I admire and hope this way we can make a community.
  • theatre is ephemeral – it is energy, a dynamic which is alive and not immortal as it is made by these people in this context in this time….. Once we embrace that and understand that everything ends, it allows us to seek out new beginnings and further engagement. When a company comes together it is a unit in itself, a family, and then it can be heartbreaking when the project ends and we move on… But connections made can be re-connected and also new ones made and new units created and new productions or sharings of an individual script. Often the onus is on us as writers to get the script out into the world – an agent helps, but the vast majority of work I do and the productions I have come through relationships I have built myself with other collaborators over the years.
  • help distract yourself from the emptiness of a project apparently ending with the next one. It always helps to have new projects and ideas ready to be developed, researched, or written. But don’t rush the next one. It will take as long as it takes. Breathe deep and give thanks for what you have achieved, and then give yourself a kick up the arse and set your sights on the next horizon……

3 responses to “Managing expectations…..

  1. Hi Kate, thanks very much for writing this particular blog entry. I have just completed an MA in Drama (Uni Glamorgan), with my focus on scriptwriting and I have all those feelings mentioned above, trying to adjust to the next step, make sense of the last year’s experience and starting a new project. So your blog entry came at exactly the right time for me. Merci! Fleur 🙂

  2. Useful advice. At the same time, I can’t help but wish we had a more joined-up theatre ecology, both as a writer and as a theatre-goer. There must surely be a way to get more good work going on tour? Or more championing of “recent” rather than simply “new” plays? It’s such a shame that productions/plays are so often forgotten after one run. And as a theatre-goer, I miss so much due to lack of money/childcare – it’s just not possible for me to travel to see things. How do we work to improve the situation – trying to encourage more partnerships/co-productions perhaps?

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