Should I Become A Playwright?

by Randy Murray on August 2, 2012

Not if you can help it.

If you find that you absolutely must write plays, then you must do it. If you can avoid it, you’ll probably be happier.

You don’t decide to become a playwright. You discover that you are one.

My route to becoming a playwright started with acting, then directing, and then playwrighting. It’s not the only route, but I strongly believe that the best playwrights have a deep and working knowledge of acting and directing. That experience results in producible plays. The plays I’ve seen from writers with no theatrical experience have been problematic, to say the least.

The theater is a highly collaborative art form and none of it happens in a vacuum. If you want to write plays, you need to know how the theater works.

While many writers, novelists, for example, decide on their own to write a book and discover their writing process by themselves. But playwrighting is a craft, just as the name implies (the “wright” part). It requires training and experience. I’m not saying that you can’t become a playwright by working on your own, never setting foot in a working theater. I’m just saying that is not the best way to do it.

Back to the question: can you make a living as a playwright?

I’d be surprised if more than 100 people in the entire world made their livings as playwrights today. I’d be shocked if more than 50 of them made more than $30,000 a year.

I’m not big on “Plan Bs” or fallback plans. I don’t look at my work as a business writer as being my Plan B. I never seriously considered making a living as a playwright. I didn’t have a choice about becoming a playwright or not. I am a playwright.

If you have to think about the question, ask yourself, “Should I become a playwright?” you probably aren’t one. That’s OK. It’s terrific, actually. On the other hand if you suddenly discover that , “Damn it. I’m a playwright,” you have my sympathies. And my congratulations.

You’ll just need to figure out some other way to eat.

The Should I Become A Playwright? by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob McCabe August 3, 2012 at 9:12 am

Gods. I want to thank you for posting this. I can’t explain WHY I’m a playwright, but know in my bones that I Am one. I started out as an actor, know how to direct but would rather write plays. T5he oices I hear from my unborn charactdrs are screaming to be heard, so I MUST write in order to survive. In the movie “The Red Shoes”, Anton Difring asks Moira Shearer’s character, “Why do you want to dance?” She answers, “Why do you want to LIVE?” He responds, “I don’t know exactly but I must.” “That’s MY answer too.


Randy Murray August 3, 2012 at 11:36 am

Good for you, Rob.


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