It’s amazing the power some people have. It’s amazing the power some people think OTHER people have. We get submissions from writers who throw variations of this very unsettling line into their cover letters – “I can change this to be whatever you want.”
This is not good. It doesn’t make me want to endorse this entity which is so changeable. I know why a writer might make that statement, it’s an means to an end. If I’m this, then I might get that. I might get in that door, into the room, the life, the place I feel I belong.
I can’t look down on anyone who promotes their work as changeable, I’ve been there. Sometimes, you just want in the door so bad you think you’re doing the right thing. Change, how bad could it be? It’s not a big change, right? You’ll like me if I change this right? You’ll produce me if you change this right? Sure I can change the central character, sure I can the gender, sure I can! Yep, right down the line, been there. I was that playwright.
The problem is playwrights do indeed have to get someone’s approval to move on. Unless you’re one of those slash types (actor/director/writer/stunt-man/engineer) you depend on someone else picking up your script and saying this is the one. It can feel like song and dance time. And sometimes those people want something different on the page, maybe slightly, maybe just a little change, maybe it would be better if this character did this, or that. And it’s easy to think, how bad could it be?
The best thing a writer can do is feel confident in the purpose of their work. To stand up for that purpose. Not in a iron wall kind of way, not in a “you change my work, you rip out my soul” kind of way. There is positive change, there is positive feedback. But when faced with ultimatums – if you do this, I’ll produce your play. If you do this, I’ll publish your work. If it’s not about making the play better, then what is the change for?
Writers, be solid in what your work is, why you wrote it and what your intention is with the work. And then find companies, publishers who fit the work. And when faced with that moment of “do this and I’ll give you that” always ask yourself, is this the best change for the work? Does it make the writing better? And if it doesn’t, walk away. Oh that’s so hard too. What if that was the right door? The door to get me in the room, the life, the place I belong?
It’s never the right door if you’re being asked to do something that benefits the asker and not the work.