News | 2008 | Is That All There Is?

Playwriting: The Structure of Action by Sam Smiley with Norman A. Bert

Lately, I've been reading Sam Smiley and Norman A. Bert's Playwriting: The Structure of Action. I'm not sure how I feel about the book yet--due to my biases against obfuscated communication--but on the whole, what they're saying seems to make sense. However, one thing I came across sort of struck me at first as sad, and then on further reflection as true.

After most playwrights complete a draft, they have a postive reaction. The weeks or months of work have produced a concrete reality. The play has become a physical object. The writer has at least temporarily defeated the chaos of existence and given the world a unit of order and beauty, fun and excitement, wisdom and feeling. The moment of completion is likely to be one of the two times playwrights experience a unique aesthetic reaction in relation to their creation; the other moment is likely to be when the play receives a good stage production.

As you might have guessed, I finished the first draft of my thesis this weekend. It's a full-length stage play, and even though I know it's riddled with holes, I am rather happy with the direction it's taken. However, it does seem kind of sad that I won't be getting another rush of excitement about this material until I see it on stage. I recognize what Smiley and Bert are saying about the rush of finishing a first draft and the rush of seeing your work on a stage. I also recognize the other parts of the writing process just aren't quite as thrilling. Luckiliy for me, I really like the revision process. Just ask any of the writers who take my classes--I think my eyes actually light up when I tall about it. For me, revision sort of goes hand-in-hand with my favourite quote about writing--it's from Hemingway, and I like to share it at every opportunity I can create:

The first draft of anything is shit.

With such a freeing low standard to build on, how can improving something not be fun? There, that does make me feel a little better, knowing the waiting for my second round of excitement won't be completely without entertainment.

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