Blair Singer is a teacher of mine… dare I say mentor?… possibly, I’ll have to ask him how he feels about that. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to move into TV as well as continue on as a playwright. After much urging from the wife, I took a class at Primary Stages in New York, and Blair was… well, I already said that part. It was one of the best writing classes I have ever took: mostly, because we didn’t read pages in class. We gave him our writing assignments, he would give us notes. In class, it was more like a professional development. We broke story. We interviewed each other for writing jobs. We created plans on how to get in.
I’m glad Blair could do this for me. And it’s particularly interesting for me, as I AM sort of a literary bigamist. And maybe I shouldn’t be… Hm…
A Literary Monogamist
by Blair Singer
Years ago, over twenty to be exact, I attended a lecture given by playwriting legend John Guare. He talked about always having multiple writing projects going at the same time, so that when he got stuck on one, he’d move on to another. This made great sense to me. Work on multiple projects, you finish multiple projects, right? And who doesn’t want to finish multiple projects? Projects are like orgasms, isn’t that how the saying goes?
For years, I have tried to adhere to Mr. Guare’s advice. I mean, he’s John Friggin’ Guare! John “Six Degrees of Separation” Guare. The guy knows from whence he speaks. However, I’ve found, through much pain and suffering, that I can’t work on multiple writing projects at the same time. For me, instead of adding up to multiple finished projects, it adds up to multiple half -finished projects, none that ever see the light of day. Sadly, I am not, nor will I ever be, a literary polygamist.
This is a problem. See, I write both for television and for theater and it would be very beneficial to my career, and to my bank account, if I could keep both balls in the air. (I know I’m mixing metaphors but I never went to school for writing so I don’t know how to not mix metaphors.) My income relies on producing new work for television. Every three months or so, my TV agent asks if I have “anything new” for him to look at, which means: “Your past work isn’t going to help you get a job anymore so get me something new. NOW.” The TV business moves fast and you have to stay current. What was hot last year is not hot this year. You need to have a range of material to keep up with the trends.
On the flip side, playwriting may not be where the money is but it’s certainly where I learn the most about my own writing. The confidence I receive after I’ve completed a play is sustaining and I need that sustenance to have the courage to continue in this career.
So what to do? How to be more Guarian? Or is this just one of life’s tough lessons? That what works for some doesn’t work for all? Am I destined to a life of literary monogamy?
Blair Singer was most recently an Executive Story Editor for “Memphis Beat” on TNT. Other television work includes: “Fairly Legal,” “Weeds,” “Monk,” and “The Book of Daniel”. As a playwright, Blair’s play, Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas, starring Matthew Modine, Peri Gilpin, and French Stewart, was seen at The Geffen Theatre. Other productions include Notice Me at The Wild Project, NYC; The Most Damaging Wound and Meg’s New Friend at Manhattan Theatre Source, NYC; Placement at The Black Dahlia, Los Angeles; Mackerels are Me Life at Chautauqua Theater Company. On the web, Blair created “The Suffersons,” starring Michael Chernus and Susan Pourfar. The Suffersons premiered on rocketboom.com and was that site’s first fictional content. He was also a Staff Writer for the third season of the web series “lonelygirl15”. Blair is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Drama and is a member of the MCC Playwrights’ Coalition. He is the 2009 recipient of the Edgerton Prize. He is also a teacher, currently teaching TV Writing at NYU/Tisch and at Primary Stages/ESPA.