Neil Simon's book Rewrites had me glued to the couch all morning, after I'd finished revising an essay I've been playing with, off and on, for a couple of months. It's not War and Peace, but it's compelling. I have not had a fraction of the success that Simon has, but I found myself nodding when he described play openings as painful rather than pleasurable. Everyone expects you, the playwright, to be flooded with delight and joy, but the real feelings are a lot more mixed, including anxiety, shame, embarrassment, depression, and a desire to hide under the bed. And this is when things are going well.
I sometimes feel like that when I have a big piece coming out--The Sun is going to publish a 2,500 word essay of mine in April, and I'm already cringing in anticipation. Is this a neurosis, or is it simply a fact of life that the smaller things really are more satisfying?
It moves me when someone tells me that something I've written has brought them pleasure or peace. When I say something funny and Carla throws back her head and laughs. I love it when my Dad cried at my play. It's deeply satisfying when C comes up to me from behind, puts his arms around my waist and nuzzles my neck. I get a glow from swimming, from working in the yard, or even playing tennis--and I'm a mediocre player at best. But opening night at the theatre? I try to imagine what it would be like to have a play on Broadway. I'd be terrified of the reviews, I think, and also scared that the producers would lose money.
Then why write the things? I don't know, I like it when people laugh or cry--I like to watch actors grab ahold of the thing, chew it up, and make it better than it ever was by infusing it with their own life-force. And I still have so many ideas!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we watched the Bourne Conspiracy last night--Conspiracy or Supremacy I can't remember which one. I think it was the last one in the trilogy, because Bourne discovered his true identity and the bad guys were brought to justice. Lots of things blew up, which delighted C who kept insisting that we rewind so that he could study a multi-car crash again. And again. As usual I most enjoyed the special features, where they show you all the incredible hard work, with an army of 500 technicians and staff, to make those things blow up realistically, and to shoot the actors without killing them.
I also re-started Wangari Maathi's Unbowed, which is a gripping and beautiful book, and much more important than any of the other stuff I've been blathering about here. And now to clear green waste from the yard, fill up the green bin, and wait for Carla to come home. I hope she's enjoying fair winds as she boogie boards with Maclen in Mexico. I hope she comes home salty and contented and glowing.