I had a conversation last summer with A.nother F.emale P.laywright that went a little something like this:
A.F.P. and ME talk about themselves as youngsters. M(ale)P joins conversation, mentioning that he was one hell of a basketball player. ME laughs riotously.
ME: I was terrible at sports!
MP: What did you play?
ME: Basketball. 4th grade. I remember quite clearly the moment I knew I wasn’t going to make the 5th grade team; The biggest girl I had ever seen was thundering towards me – I’m not kidding, I can still see it happening slow motion in my memory bank- and I had the ball. So there I was, the coach yelling at me, my co-players running amok around me, and this Giantess bearing down on me and I just… passed her the ball.
AFP: What?! You gave it to the other girl? The Big one? From THE OTHER TEAM?
ME: Yup. I realized in that moment that no ball in a hoop was worth the pain she was going to rain down upon me. She wanted it, I didn’t. I’m just not competitive like that. At all.
MP laughs at this and goes for another beer. AFP turns to me and says in a voice that reeks of disbelief and nose-wrinkling…
AFP: So if you’re not competitive, then how are you a playwright?
And that my friends, was my slow-motion realization that this woman and I would never be more than casual peers… her in one court and I in the other.
Because the only person I am ever in competition with is myself.
You see, writing is personal business. We can (and will) all tell the same stories in our own merry ways… what the public, or that literary manager, or some regular Joe with deep pockets and a desire to get in the producing biz thinks of my work is completely independent of what he/she/it thinks of yours.
There is a much repeated, oft lasered-into-paper-weights, saying that goes a little like this: Surround yourself with successful people and you will find success yourself.
Hard to do when you look on everyone around you as the competition.
Harder still to keep those successful people around you.