Advice to the playwright from Malachy Walsh

Recently American playwright and blogger Adam Szymkowicz decided to devote his blog to the interviewing of playwrights, which he has been doing at a rather relentless rate. They’re wonderful and chock full o’ inspiration, if you’re into wonderful and inspiring things. Check them out when you’ve got the time.

A lot of the young series is resonant, but one particular response from California resident Malachy Walsh really slapped me upside the head today, and I kind of want to turn it into a poster. Here it is, exploded into list view:

What advice do you have for other playwrights?

  • Find people you like, then work with them and hold on to them for dear life.
  • If you give up, everyone else will too.
  • Never confuse a budget for a play.
  • Be good to your actors – always.
  • Don’t worry about what the institutions are doing – ever.
  • Listen to your characters before anyone else.
  • Write every day for as long as you can.
  • Write longhand whenever possible.
  • Writing isn’t a competitive sport, despite what the competitions and memberships and production credits suggest.
  • Other writers are your friends, not people you’re trying to demolish.
  • Coffee is good, liquor is not.
  • Ask for help.
  • Get a day job (I don’t care what David Mamet says) and keep it until it’s impossible not to.
  • And, my favorite, from Anne Bogart: Don’t wait.

It’s stuff like this that I use to explain the use of blogging and the internet to inquisitive folk. Each one of these is the title of a blog post waiting to happen. Thanks guys.

5 thoughts on “Advice to the playwright from Malachy Walsh

  1. I adore writing in longhand. It totally makes me feel like a writer. Every play starts with pen and a notebook, it just doesn’t feel the same, for me, to create on the computer. Don’t get me wrong, I adore computers but when I’m in that idea stage it’s long hand all the way: there’s an electric river, (yes I know this sounds kooky) a lightening rod of words that travels from my brain, down my left arm, out my pen and on to the page. I love it.

    Hmmmm, definitely kooky. Ah well…

  2. I second the longhand advice! I write all my first drafts out in long hand, and than wait a few months than type up the second draft. Than wait a few months and edit it. It takes me about 7 months to go from the first draft to the final (usually 4th or 5th) draft, but I find I end up with a better story that way.

    By writing it long hand (with a non erasable pen) first, I don’t have to worry about my inner editor and I can just write the story with out any care about spelling or grammar. This is a good thing because it lets the story flow without interruption.

    Than when I go back and type it up, I let me word processor worry about automatically correcting the basic spelling and grammar errors. I use this period to add any missing scenes, fill in plot holes, and take out stuff that doesn’t fit.

    And than finally, when I do the final edit, I am free to just tear the thing apart without worrying about the creative flow. Getting rid of passive voice, spelling mistakes, and grammar errors.

    In the end, I have a nicely polished script that I can be proud of.

  3. Pingback: Opening out of town | One Big Umbrella

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