It all started in our grandparents’ house, with one always-there set-piece; a bar. That is where my brother and I, together, wrote our first plays. If you don’t believe me, most of them are on film somewhere (thanks, Grandma).
What am I doing today? Right after I finish this blog post? I’m going to get back to creating worlds that weren’t there before I found them, gave them light and life, and began marking down their stories. Yes, I’m a novelist, short story-ist, and poet. In this case, though, I will be telling a story in the form of a play. That’s right, I am proud to be a budding playwright. It all began so many years ago in front of and behind that bar, and it continues (I do recognize that last phrase could mean different things to different people).
One of my old teachers used to say as we read Julius Caesar, “There is some beautiful language in here; Shakespeare kind of had the beautiful language thing down. But a play is not to be read.” He said this even though that’s exactly what we were assigned to do.. “A play is to be performed on stage and seen in a theater.” I agree.
My brother is an actor. The stages are bigger now than our first. And he’s a good one. Well-trained, always and forever passionate about the work, no matter what work he might have in a particular period of time. Even back when he was in elementary school and we (the whole family; Dad would bring congratulatory flowers to be given at the performance’s end) watched him as the lead in Tom Sawyer, he knew everyone else’s lines before they did. He could memorize lines the way I eat chocolate cake; in no time.
We had our paths in life. I was a writer. He was an actor. We supported each other. I remember a particular day full of stage moms when he didn’t get an audition, and I had been there the whole time he was auditioning.
“You did great,” I told him. He had. “If they didn’t want you, that’s not on you. You did everything you could.” We spent the rest of the day making fun of the stage moms with their affected my-kid’s-better-than-your-kid, look-at-her-up-there stage mom accents that made those women sound like old-time-y movie stars but made them look like weirdos who had put their dreams in their children and whose behavior wouldn’t fly anywhere but as a stage mom.
Over the years, he honed his technique. He wrote plays himself (I told you my brother was well-trained.). He even began his own acting company.
Meanwhile, I wrote my stories, largely unseen. The literary writer does not get flowers. He doesn’t have to remember anyone’s lines but his own. He doesn’t know if, when he finishes, anyone will care about what he’s written. There are no “opening nights”. He can only hope. And sometimes, he can confuse his solitude for the outside world telling him he’s no good. At least, I can.
And that brings us back to this blog’s title: You Are The Toughest Critic You’ll Ever Face. Basically, whatever you do, at times there may be no one who’s a bigger or better ally than you. “I’m so good at this job!” At the same time, there may be no harsher judge. “If I were good at this, wouldn’t other people see it? I must suck!”
Last year, I wrote a story I thought could turn into a play. How cool would that be? That people might come to see the story I wrote on-stage! (No stage-moms allowed.). I took it to my brother and said, “What do you think? Does this have potential?” It did. He loved it.
“Would you want to turn it into a play?” I asked.
“Why don’t you do it?” he said.
“You think I can?”
So I began writing a play. Even though I doubted I could do it (because, you know, that happens all the time, and it’s easy to do; doubting ourselves is easy; proving the doubter wrong is work).
Off I go now, back to that play after a bit of a break, to prove the doubter, the critic, inside of me wrong. And every now and then, when the writing gets tough, I will remind myself that it all started in our grandparents’ house with one always-there set-piece; a bar.