I'm sure you all have a list of projects you're working on and that you someday hope to get to. I personally use the app Clear for my ongoing (and unending) list because it’s simple and clean, but also, more importantly, it’s easy to shift things around. Our priorities change, so must the list!
I recently felt as though I was going crazy keeping up with my list of projects. So, I looked at my list and made the decision to prioritize projects that had planned outcomes: productions, commissions, or publications. Three projects moved to the top: Cowgirls Don't Ride Zebras: The Children's Book (#1 spot!), The Woman Musical (#2 spot!), and Tatterhood (#3).
Then, I went further than I’d ever gone before and made sublists! Each project had a list of tasks. THEN! I prioritized the projects and gave each a due date, pushing them into next year. The most important thing I did in this process was limit the work I was doing to the current project at hand. So, with Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras: the children’s book as the # 1 spot, I concentrated solely on the work for that project. And for the past month, I’ve only worked on Cowgirls. I've worked on character design. I’ve drawn kangaroos. I’ve drawn hippos. I’ve drawn lions. I’ve drawn zebras. I’ve drawn and designed the children characters. I’ve gotten better, more confident in my work.
When I first started, I was worried about being able to draw these animals with any skill. Drawing is my first love. Long before I had any desire to be a playwright, I wanted to be a Disney animator. That hasn’t quite left me, which is why I co-host a podcast about cartoons… But I’ve been away from drawing for a long time. Sure, I’ve done a sketch here or there, but it felt… Hard. It felt as if my arm and hand didn’t know what I was asking them to do. It felt unnatural. As a kid, in high school, and even into college, drawing felt like the most natural thing in the world. Somewhere along the line, between grad school and day jobs, drawing skipped off the rails of who I was and fell behind. But it’s coming back. Now, when I head to paper or to iPad Pro, I feel joy in turning circles into faces. I feel both excited and calm as the sketchy lines solidify into forms. It’s been a joy.
So, here’s the thing. I’m a playwright. Before yesterday, I hadn’t read a play, written a single piece of stage direction or dialogue in over two months. And that’s a big deal for me. I don’t feel tortured about it or guilty. And that’s probably a bigger deal for me. I was of the mind that if I wasn’t actively writing or working on a play, I couldn’t call myself a playwright. People say it’s a daily process. They say it’s a daily discipline. I don’t say that. Not anymore. Sometimes your soul, your art, needs you to be something else. Maybe my playwriting self needed me to be an artist for a while. I know my artist self needed me to be an artist for a while. My soul feels better having given that artist self time to live out in the open.
What other selves have you fed lately, my fellow theatre and art-makers?
Find a way to feed your souls and, as always, be excellent to each other.