By Hook or By Crook – Storytelling
I write a lot. I have a personal writing schedule of completing a full-length piece every year as well as maintaining a catalog of short pieces to enter into competitions, festivals and reading series. And then there’s this little project of Flash Radio Theatre. Most of the thirteen plays I completed in 2019 had their origins in drafts I’d generated in prior years. Writing is rewriting.
But with “By Hook or By Crook” I was confronted with the issue of what stories do I have the right to tell? Can a gay white cismale tell the story of three women pondering an unexpected pregnancy? And even if I felt I could tell the story; does I have the right to?
I’ve written many female characters and a few nonbinary characters, but I’ve never taken on a story that was so fundamentally alien to me. I will never be pregnant, so the best I can do is offer an outsider’s view of the situation. Ultimately I decided I owed it to all of the women I’ve supported as they wrestled with the decision of what to do when becoming pregnant. I decided that every writer has the right to tell whatever story they feel compelled to set down on paper as long as they educate themselves on the topic and guard against exploiting the subject, the characters, or the story.
As artists, It is not up to us to censor ourselves or pass judgment upon our work. The best we can do is approach the work with respect, intelligence and humor and then let our audience decide whether or not we’ve spoken to them. In writing six plays for women from a different era, I have come to the opinion that the maxim of “writing what you know” only holds true if you’re willing to take the risk of challenging our own personal ideologies and restrictive paradigms and investing in learning something new. So, I’m going to toss the writing-what-you-know trope out the window and replace it with a new trope:
Investigate what you don’t know and write about that.