From the Desk of Gary Garrison
Originally Published in The Dramatist
It took me until the tenth grade in high school to find the one class that I could excel in, a class that I actually proudly sat in the front row for, did all the homework assigned, asked for extra-credit work outside of class (unheard of!) and sat with rapt attention from the moment the bell rang signaling its beginning through to its end. I loved my typing class because my beige/brown IBM electric typewriter took up the entire desk and I never had to pretend that I was interested in a deadly dull subject by haphazardly scattering papers, pencils and an open book all over my desk. Call me crazy (and many did), but there was something about that clean, neat, tight, steel case with black keys and bright, white letters that made me want to finger a symphony of machination through it. The daily typing test got my heart racing in a way corndog-on- a-stick (my other great high school love) could never match.
Miss Clemmons, the goddess of all things business-practical and home-technical in my high school (she heralded for her revolutionary teaching approach to home economics), was healthy competition for my IBM Selectric: more clean, neat, tight and steely you couldn’t come by. You could bounce a quarter off her cheek and she’d never feel thing. And the woman had no sense of humor; trust me, I tried all my best material the first two days of class and got nothing back but a cold stare. By the third day I realized she was all business (how fitting for a business class), and was in a word, persnickety. You had to sit the right way, hold your hands the right way, type the right way, ask your questions the right way, excuse yourself to the restroom the right way and
God forbid you should sneeze and spray the room with no sense of control or order.
Everyone hated her, but I worshipped her. She was all things order; all things refined to appropriate presentation. And she taught me the most valuable business lessons I continued to use well beyond the years when a Selectric keyboard was replaced by the clackity-clackity- clack of a white plastic console with a translucent apple glowing on it. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt to keep my writer’s resume updated, easy to read and uncluttered with yet one more unimportant reading. I loathe writing a clear, concise, engaging and compelling synopsis of my work that doesn’t look heavy on the page. I fatigue at the thought of writing cover letters that balance too much with not enough. I groan when I start a new play and fret over where to appropriately put the character names, the stage directions and the dialogue. And yet, I know when I’m lazy with any of it, it looks just that: lazy and careless.
I care too much about my art to ever look lazy. I know lit managers and interns-as-readers can sometimes be unrealistic and often frustrating about wanting ten separate pieces of material to accompany one submission. But like it or not, there’s a business aspect to our art-making, and I can either play by the rules or sit frustrated in the playground wondering why no one wants to play with me. Too often in our training programs or in our own self-education, we spend inordinate amounts of time and energy learning to write the best play and little to no time learning to be a playwright – which means embracing -- not fighting -- the business of the business.