The Enemy Within

2018 has been both a great year and a difficult year. I have had some great success, and some setbacks. I won OCTA NWPC 2018, was a semi-finalist in another contest, was asked to be a reader for a couple of new play contests, and attended MDC Conference. My list of plays written is not as long as I would like, submissions came and went due to health issues that have plagued me this entire year. As I’ve fought physical illness and my own battles, I decided to put pen to paper with what I’ve done to keep my spirits up.

  1. Forgive myself. I didn’t write everything I wanted to, and submissions came and went. I can’t focus on that – I’ve got to move forward.
  2. Open my laptop, pick up a pen, flip through a notebook. The act of muscle memory and holding the tools is one step closer to actually writing.
  3. Watching plays. If I am drained and don’t feel that I can write, I can watch, and absorb what a good, producible play is.
  4. Reading plays. If I am tired and cannot create my own story, I can read published and new plays, and give feedback and encouragement to those that are writing.
  5. Encouraging writers. Writing is hard. If I myself am unable to do it, I can be a cheerleader and give what energy I have to those who are doing it.

Writing is a solitary endeavor, theatre a community one. To get the play to the page, you’ve got to be able to conquer yourself, then to get it up on its feet you have to be willing to flay yourself open to expose your deepest fears, loves, desires to a room full of people. However, the pen is the first weapon you take up, against the enemy of your own doubt.

Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy” is a book I have had with me since 2001. The pages are now yellowed, the sticky notes are crumbling, and for 18 years I have highlighted passages that I have read over and over. My favorite daily reflection is for September 20th, entitled The Enemy Within,  and I have put my favorite excerpts here:

Fear has derailed more dreams than we can ever know. Physical distress – a racing heart, pounding head, nervous stomach – is the first assault when we edge to the perimeter of our comfort zone. It’s a natural, primordial instinct, a remnant of the fight-or-flight syndrome.

We don’t have to run scared.

We do have to learn to recognize the physical manifestations of fear and acknowledge them.

Intimidation works differently from naked fear. The moment you step bravely out from the bounds of your comfort zone, she’s likely to rise up inside you like a lion tamer, complete with a whip and chair “Get Back!” She’ll scream. “Who do you think you are? You’ll make a fool of yourself! Get back to your cage immediately!”

One significant quality found in the women we admire is that they have identified their personal patterns of self-sabotage and learned to let their own best friend – their authentic self – outsmart the enemy within.

And so can you.

Whether it be chronic pain or illness, limited time, stage fright, lack of resources, or lack of support from friends or family, we all have something to conquer. Some of us have more battles to fight than others.

I know of playwrights who live in locked countries who will never see their work produced, who write with their imagination, and send their plays into the world for others to produce. I know of other playwrights who only found the craft in their 80s, and who are frantically writing against the limited time they have left. Many playwrights have to fight against a world that tells them they aren’t producible, that their work isn’t right, that their voice isn’t what anyone is looking for, that there already is enough of this, isn’t there?

We all have limited time, and limited energy. Give your limited energies to what you love. Give it to who you love. We cannot do everything all of the time, and we cannot be all things to all people. Make decisive investments.

Do not waste time in falling for the tricks of the enemy within. We all have one. And we all have the ability to conquer it.

 

Cover photo courtesy of wallup.net

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