07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Saturday, July 6, 2013

ESCAPING THE MODIFIERS by Emily Golden, Young Author,

Emily Golden is an award-winning young playwright.
A typical first-draft sentence for me looks something like this: The long, verbose blog post was playfully written with convivial humor and mirthful metaphor.
            Needless to say, brevity has never been my strength.

It takes a tremendous amount of work for me to weed out all of the extra description and just leave the distilled meaning of what I’m trying to say. With some brutal rewriting I usually end up with something fairly concise. However, rewriting my reputation takes a bit more effort.
            As a young writer I’m constantly struggling against modifiers. I’m always “a great writer for my age” or “excellent for a college student.” I’ll win the student or young writer division in a competition. When I first started writing I relished being the exceptional new kid. I loved the feeling of being the only high school student who managed to get into a night of ten-minute-plays. Now that I’ve graduated from college, I find myself trying to break away from such phrases, but it isn’t easy.
            Even more important than outward perception are the modifiers I place on myself. Recently while having a conversation with my dad I referenced the two successful playwrights who graduated from my college. After asking whom the second one was, he was surprised to discover that I hadn’t included myself in that list. But, in reality, it hadn’t even crossed my mind that I was now joining their ranks.
Being a “student writer” is my comfort zone. It gives me a constant fallback if I’m unsatisfied with my work. It’s okay if my last play felt mediocre because I’m still young and I have plenty of time to improve. Now, by trying to break away from this label, I have to also let go of it in the way I see myself. I have to become comfortable saying “I am a playwright” rather than treating it as something I’m trying to become in the future.
            I’m starting a new period in my writing and, in fact, my life, in which I’m going to have to embrace a brand new list of modifiers. The words “early career” and “emerging” are starting to find their way close to my name, and I’m going to have to get used to seeing them there.
            I think that’s one of the biggest struggles that young writers face—figuring out who they are once the “young” goes away and they simply become writers. I don’t yet know how I’m going to handle this change, but I’m excited to give it a shot. 

PEANUT BUTTER AND PLAY WRITING  In a June post, Emily Golden uses a metaphor to explain how she became a playwright.


Judith Ashley said...

Welcome back, Emily!

No one would refer to me as 'young' but as I come ever closer to being published, I think I understand the shift you are describing. Who will I be when I'm no longer 'yet to be published?' And like you, even though I'm many decades older, I'm excited to find out.

When it comes to reimagining ourselves, is there really any such thing as 'an age gap?'

Diana Mcc. said...

Great post! Good luck in your career as an emerging playwright!!

Cathryn Cade said...


Sadly, this is not exclusive to young writers, or to unpublished writers. It was not until recently that a colleague pointed out to me, in a high dudgeon, that I should have 'best-selling sci fi romance author' in my signature.

Have I made the NYT list? No, but I did hit the top lists on the internet. Wish all my books would do that!

All this to say, continue to ask respected colleagues to remind you to take credit for what you've done at all stages in your career. Or heck, have your mother monitor reviews for you. She'll let you know when you should be blowing your own horn!

best of luck in your play writing!

Cathryn Cade

Emily Golden said...

Good to hear that this isn't something exclusive to young writers. I know that at this stage it's easy to feel like a small fish in a very, very large ocean. I suppose there are always not transitions to be made and stages to be reached, no matter where in a carrier a writer might find herself.

Sarah Raplee said...

I enjoyed your post, Emily. Great title!