I’m a playwright. (I almost feel like I’m speaking at a 12-step meeting: “God help me– I’m a playwright…” Ha)
I make my living (and have for the past 20 years) by writing plays and musicals that producers want to present to their audiences. When nobody wants to produce my plays, my royalty payments will stop, and I will do something else to help put food on my family’s table. I don’t write because I NEED to or HAVE to– I write because that is the contribution to society that I feel the most comfortable making and based on my royalty checks, society likes it that way.
I read in The Dramatists Guild (of which I am a member) magazine that the average income for a working (produced) playwright is $4,000-$7,000 annually. Seven thousand dollars a year! And The Guild represents professional playwrights who have shows running on Broadway. Seven grand?? That’s it. Not to brag (well, maybe a little), but I make a LOT more than that every year. I don’t have an agent, I’ve never been produced by an Equity theatre and I live in the Midwest– and according to various playwrighting workshops I’ve attended over the course of my career– these are all fatal mistakes. I’ve also never taken a playwrighting course or even a creative writing class after high school.
It reminds me of my acting days in the 80s when Actors Equity was reporting that the average income for a professional (member of the Actors Union) to be $2,400 and that the average number of weeks those actors worked under an Equity contract was a little over two. BTW, back in my acting days, I was never a member of Equity and I worked a lot more than 2 weeks made a lot more than $2400 a year.
I say all this just to make the point that there are no hard and fast rules to success in playwrighting (or anything). There are tips and hints to help your odds at success, but for every “successful” playwright who went through Juliard’s playwrighting track, I can show you hundreds more who did not. For just about every playwright who followed all the rules for good playwrighting, I can show you another who bucked the rules and still had success. The proof in the pudding is in the tasting!