Lately, I’ve begun to feel some regret. Regret that my experience as a playwright with the Plan B/Meat and Potato Lab will soon come to a close and that I’m not “finished.” Actually, I’ve been feeling this regret since the beginning of our second year in the Lab. It’s a nagging regret. It won’t go away, no matter how much I try.
You see, I haven’t “finished” or completed all the learning that I desire. I haven’t been able to write my playwriting masterpiece yet. I haven’t begun to figure out how I discipline myself to keep on writing outside of the lab, without an intense instructor prompting me along the way. I haven’t figured out how to live as a playwright yet…
And maybe this is impossible. Maybe that’s the source of my regret. The fact that I work full-time and can’t devote the kind of time to my writing that I wish. Maybe I won
’t ever live as a playwright but just flirt with a playwright’s lifestyle from time to time.
Or perhaps this is an excuse. Perhaps if I truly prioritized my writing, I’d replace it with some of my television or friend time. I’d put it on my schedule like I put waking up, brushing my teeth, taking a shower, going to work, and eating dinner.
Whatever the source, I feel regret. I’ve enjoyed my experience in the lab so much that I fear letting it go. I worry about where I’ll be as a playwright without it. It reminds me somewhat of a parent-child relationship—when is the best time to let go? This particular letting go is a forced one. I’m not ready. And yet, I hope that I’ve created strong enough bonds with playwriting colleagues that we can continue to support one another, even beyond the formal lab.
I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have felt this same way two years ago, before the lab. Then, playwriting was about making a point. It was a way for me to make some grandiose statement and to force people to listen to this perspective. You can’t walk out of a play in the middle the same way you can walk away from an argument, right? I could always get the upper-hand in playwriting. So there!
But now, I’ve come to a new realization. Playwriting is a place where we, as artisans, search for meaning. Where we try to sort out matters that are challenging or confusing—ones that don’t necessarily have easy straightforward answers. Playwriting is about figuring things out. It’s become a required part of my sensemaking. When I read a newspaper article or hear a news story that challenges me, I think of writing a play. When I hear a word that intrigues me, I think of writing a play. When I struggle with a part of myself that I don’t understand, I think of writing a play.
This is what the lab has meant to me. It’s been more significant than one might imagine. And now, I’ve got to wrestle with the regret and find a way to satisfy this internal nag. To give outlet to a process that’s become so much more than proving that I’m right. To feed my soul (no matter how cliché that might sound).
I’m honored to have had the opportunity to participate in the Lab. It’s given me an incredible gift in playwriting. Now my challenge is to figure out how to continue independently of the lab. I hope it’s clear from this entry that writing has become part of my identity—part of my continuous search to understand who I am and what defines me. Maybe before the lab, I would have said I knew the answer to this identity question. Now, thanks to playwriting, there are and will continue to be more questions than answers.
While a member of the Plan-B/Meat & Potato Lab, Jim Martin has written for Student SLAM in partnership with Theatre Arts Conservatory and his short play DEFENESTRATED was read as part of the HIV/AIDS Plays as part of Plan-B’s Script-In-Hand Series in partnership with the Utah AIDS Foundation.