writing for stage

Adaptation is scary. Even when it’s fictional.

I’ve watched or listened to work I’ve written be performed exactly four times now. The pieces consisted of two one-act plays (one staged in two different productions) and, more recently, my flash piece “Frankenstein’s Monster” narrated in podcast form. I consider myself fortunate in that I’ve never been totally disgusted with any of the final products. In fact, on the balance I think they’ve turned out quite well (which isn’t to say I’ve always agreed with every choice made in the production process).

Nothing is quite so exciting (or terrifying) as handing over your work with the knowledge that someone else intends to bring it to life. I say this after two one act plays and a podcast. I can only imagine what it’s like for authors who have their work turned into feature films.

I suspect many people find the process frightening because it necessarily requires you to give up creative control. It takes many people to bring even a short fiction piece to life, and like it or not you are trusting them not to deliver any cataclysmic fuck-ups.

Personally I am not overly concerned with control. What gives me anxiety is that a team of actors and others will breathe life into my work only to demonstrate that… well… the work itself is stupid.

There is a certain cognitive bias called the Dunning-Kruger effect

wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks that are easy for them are also easy for others.

So the really horrible thing about being a no-talent hack is that you are much less likely to realize you’re a no-talent hack. And if there are enough deluded, no-talent hacks out there some of them may decide that your crappy story would make a great (by great what they really mean is crappy) podcast/play/film/television series.

Of course this fear is completely irrational. You’ll probably never know if you’re actually any good, or if the work based on your work is any good. Which is why the only  measuring stick I hold to any performance based on my work is whether I enjoy it.

By that standard I guess I’m pretty happy with how things have turned out.