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The Art of Waiting

As a working playwright, I send out a lot of submissions. At any given moment, dozens of theaters across the country could be reading my work. Or, more likely, at any given moment, my work could be sitting in dozens of slush piles that are currently untouched by the overworked intern who is attempting to sift through the hundreds of scripts they’ve received this year. Either one. But regardless of what’s happening on the other end of the line, I’ve realized that dealing with waiting is actually a large part of my job.

This probably sounds obvious to anyone in a similar artistic field. We’re used to long wait times and often find ourselves “ghosted” by theaters or competitions to whom we’ve sent our work. Long wait times don’t bug me–especially when the theater tells me ahead of time that there’s a specific date on which I’ll receive a definite answer. Even if that date is three years in the future, I’m game.

But the tricky part is when I psych myself out and find myself aware–hmmm. It’s March. It’s April. Shouldn’t that theater be getting back to me? Or shouldn’t that competition be handing out results soon? When I scan online message boards and playwright groups on Facebook, I quickly find that I’m not alone in this neurotic pursuit. There are hundreds if not thousands of writers in the same anxious boat.

So–the point? Obviously I’d love it if theaters and competitions would send out rejection notices along with their “announcements of winners”–then at least we could all stop refreshing their websites every week. But in the meantime–since I know there are many variables on the plates of artistic directors and lit managers–it’s part of my job to recognize this waiting game as something that drives me crazy and get a handle on it. That’s something I can control. (Or at least I can try.)

Long story short, this is my official commitment to choosing writing over waiting. The next time I find myself anxiously refreshing a website, I’ll redirect myself to jot down some ideas or do some research for that new play instead. Waiting can drive a person nuts. Sometimes I’ll give myself a break and let myself worry a bit, because hard rules aren’t good for the soul either. But more often than not, I’ll be aware of the waiting bug and steer away from it, and toward a healthier use of my time.

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