Stop apologizing for success.

Yesterday, I got my first “Hey! We wanna publish your short story!” email.

First moment response: “FUCK YEAH! This is awesome! Feels pretty good. Validating. I must be a pretty good writer!”

Second moment response: “But it’s probably not a big deal, really. I don’t think a lot of people know this magazine. And getting published in one publication isn’t going to really matter in the long run. It’s really nothing. I should probably just shut up about it and pretend it didn’t happen.”

I’m not unfamiliar with this interior dialogue. I’ve had it from the first moment I got produced as a playwright. Every reading I ever scored. Every production that went up. Every award I won. Every conference I got accepted to.

Every. Single. Time.

I spent so much of my playwriting life apologizing for my success, downplaying the moments when my work mattered to other people. It was unfair to me. It was unfair to the people who were supporting my work. And it was buying into a very dangerous and limited idea of what success really is.

Success is your work connecting with other people. That’s it. The whole shebang.

If you’re brave enough to share your work, and someone experiences it and connects to it, you’ve succeeded. If it’s an international bestseller, a story published in a small indie digital magazine, or just a Google Docs file you share with a friend, if someone finds something of value in it, you’ve succeeded. 

Make it weird.

I’ve been thinking about HEREDITARY all weekend.

I really admire its ambition. It’s bonkers and it’s over the top and it sort of throws everything at the screen. Some of it succeeds brilliantly. Some of it doesn’t.

I like that.

It takes confidence to allow failure to be a part of your storytelling. To commit to the thing that just night not work is ballsy. To commit to the thing that’s gonna sharply divide audiences is ballsy. To let that potential for failure be a part of the mechanism of your story is a kind of narrative swagger I can dig.

4:59

She slammed into the train car at 4:58.

He knew, because he was on his phone, texting Claire that he’d made it on the 4:59 train from New Haven and would be in New York by 6:40. Claire wouldn’t answer. She would still be asleep. But she’d wake up and wonder, so he’d save her the worry.

Safe. On the train. Love you.

He hit send, and there was a clink!, metal against metal, echoing loudly in the car that was, until her, mercifully empty.  He looked up. The clink! was due to the keys dangling off the ring she’d slid down her left hand;s index finger. This was the hand that was clutching the metal pole near the doors to the train car. The rest of her — of which there wasn’t much, she was uncomfortably thin, chest pulsing with uneven shallow breaths, faded pink hair plastered to her temples with sweat — leaned against the first row of seats in the car.

Their eyes met.

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