I’m about to head to the first read-through of a play of mine that’s coming to London in October, courtesy of the fine folk at Poleroid Theatre. I am bloody petrified.
I pride myself on having a tough skin with regards to criticism, to the point of masochism. If you come to see something of mine, I won’t want to hear how great you think it is – I want to hear what you didn’t like, what you feel ‘meh’ about or what you just outright loathed. It’s not for nothing after all, and a well-interrogated script is the finest commodity a writer can own.
As I noted with that first True Brits reading, The first read is always an utter, heartbreaking bastard. You will make mumbly apologies before you start (“It’s just a first draft guys, so….”), secretly hoping you’ll blow everyone anyway. I mean, you’re a writer, you’ve done the writing, you think it’s kind of good, you’re bloody good aren’t you so it’s probably actually pretty good too and everyone will LOVE. IT. Alas, it’s never the case and the read is always exposing and wince-inducingly embarrassing. You start by making mental notes and then not-so-mental notes with your pen, which starts as the odd line change, leading to slashing away at whole chunks, to finally writing in the margin “WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING?! DO YOU NEVER WANT SUCCESS? HOW WILL YOU FIND LOVE THROUGH THIS TRIPE? CHICKS* DON’T DIG TRIPE AND DON’T SAY YOU DON’T CARE ‘CAUSE YOU TOTALLY DO”
When it’s over, everyone puts down the script, looks at each other, smiles and says words to the effect of “well, that was nice!”. Nice. Not good. Never good. Nice. If you’re lucky you might get a well done.
Next steps? Go home, cry a little bit, probably a lot, ring your loved ones and tell them you’re so sorry you didn’t listen and study medicine like they wanted you to and maybe it’s not too late, maybe you can take some A-Levels that –
Wake up in the middle of the night, full of dread and self-loathing, switch on your computer. Stare at it for hours. Accept that this is the moment when you’re a writer. When you pull up your tear-soaked pants at 4 A.M. and plunge back in so that at the next read-through people finish, look at you with the mildest smile and tell you the most heartening thing a writer can hear:
“Yeah…it’s getting there, isn’t it?”
(* Your chick motivation may vary)