To my knowledge, the Buddha was not a playwright. He did, however, pass along a bit of wisdom that serves as priceless advice to even the most irreligious of us who dare create art. This bit of wisdom is at the core of Buddhist philosophy:
Attachment leads to suffering.Behold a frightening picture:
This is the play that would not die. It's my award-winning play Diving In after nearly endless tinkering, attempts at expansion, adaption to the big screen, separation into a three-play cycle, etc. It became a leviathan; a monster that haunted my dreams, kept me up late at night and distracted me for days on end. How many years did I spend beating this poor play to death? I hate to think on it.
One day, sick with the grief of it, I packed the whole damn thing up in a box and put it in storage. No longer attached, I was able to refocus my creative energies elsewhere and on other projects.
There is no shortage of ideas. Just when you think they thought of it all, some jackass in the middle of nowhere surprises us all. Getting all hung up on "that one really good idea" is crazy! And believe me, I know whereof I speak. My attention became so focused on Diving In it was all I could think about. Every conversation I had, article I read, food I ate -- everything -- was related back to Diving In. Being fixated thusly, I wasn't able to fully formulate new ideas or follow new creative impulses. I was stuck! Finally I pulled myself out of it, and there was this huge rush of ideas. I finished a children's book, wrote another play, etc.
You have to know when to say when and have the courage to throw out the baby with the bath water if need be. This isn't an excuse for self-destructive behavior or nihilism. It means recognizing when you've gotten about as far as anyone could possibly expect, and shifting gears. Hiking down a different trail. Whistling a new tune.
Another story: A friend of mine in high school was really into miniature role playing games. He had hundreds of these beautifully detailed figures that he had delicately painted over hundreds of hours. One day his house caught fire and the whole collection -- all that work and investment -- went up in smoke. I felt sick for him. I saw him a few days after I had heard the news and offered my deep condolences.
He shook his head at me. "Are you kidding? I'm relieved!"
He graduated highschool, served a stint in the Army, and some years later took up his hobby again, totally out performing himself in terms of quantity and quality.
Out of the blue a few months ago, it occurred to me that the thing I liked originally about Diving In was the simplicity of the play: A sole actress sits on a window ledge, above the audience and tells them her story. At the end of the play, she jumps off of the ledge and into a blackout (and implicitly, to her death.) I dusted off what was left of the mangled, battered original draft and started putting the pieces back together. It's basically a typist's job now, transcribing the bits and pieces of the thing into a whole again. Any obsession I had about the play has faded away.
Who says you should suffer for you art?