Tonight I am feeling all sorts of emotions.
Thus far only a few of your will know why. Regardless, it has prompted me to write a post whilst slightly inebriated. I hope you will forgive me for any in-articulence. To get you up to speed, a few weeks ago the president of the Fred Ebb Foundation (fellow who, with his mate John Kander wrote musicals such as Cabaret, Chicago and The Scottsboro Boys) called me whilst I was working at Trinity Laban. He told me that I was one of seven finalists for The Fred Ebb Musical Theatre Award (one of the most prestigious musical theatre awards in the world). He told me that my work was now being passed onto the finalists panel and I would find out by the end of the month about the result.
Now, the thing about this award is that it’s worth $60,000. The money is given to you to do with as you please. There are no conditions attached. It’s simply an award that recognises your potential as a writer and gives you some money to help you realise that potential.
I know that many of us writers live right on the breadline. Sometimes we wonder how the hell we are going to pay the rent for the next month. I know I certainly do. It’s not a comfortable existence. But shit man, if you want a comfortable existence you should be looking elsewhere. Anyway, when the opportunity for an award like this comes along you start to imagine another life, a life where the idea of security, children and family might be possible alongside your dream of writing musicals for a living. It’s literally a potentially life changing amount of money. And as much as you tell yourself that you aren’t going to win it, that you are only one of seven equally deserving finalists there is a tiny little sliver of hope, a little light shining there in the dark that can’t be dampened, the idea that maybe, just maybe all the things you have hoped and dreamed of might actually be possible. They might be literally waiting around the corner… “Could be… who knows…”
So it’s utterly crushing when you find out that you didn’t get it.
Isn’t it interesting that when someone wants to give you good news they call you on the phone, but when they have to give you bad news they send you an email.
This evening I was with Rhys and his lovely husband Josh when I received the news that I hadn’t won the award. I was glad not to be alone. I told them both immediately.
I think this is an important step.
Don’t get me wrong, I am the grateful recipient of a bunch of musical theatre awards which have been life changing and incredible and I will remain endlessly grateful for them to the end of my days. But you may not know that I have also (along with plenty of others) come pretty close to a bunch of awards that I did not get. Amongst them:
2 x finaliist for The Cameron Mackintosh Composer in Residence Award
1 x shortlist the Cameron Mackintosh Composer in Residence Award
1 x finalist for the Kevin Spacey Musical Theatre Award
1 x finalist for the Old Vic 12
1 x shortlist for the Old Vic 12
3 x finalist for the Stiles & Drewe Best New Song Award
What I’m saying is that whilst I’m very grateful for those wonderful wins, I’m also a bloody well-seasoned loser.
So what have I learned about how to handle being a loser?
First, tell someone. Anyone. And tell them quickly. Tell a stranger on the street if you have to. Because the sooner you tell someone, the sooner the reality of loss will sink in. And the sooner that happens, the sooner you’ll get over it. The sooner you get over it, the sooner you will get back to writing.
Next? Eat something. Preferably something sugary and with a cookie like consistency. I’m literally sat in Brooklyn right now, eating my way through an entire box of oatmeal and raisin cookies. I feel better already.
After that, feel bitter and sad, and outraged and all of the negative things. It’s alright to feel that way for a little while. Drown your sorrows in biscuits and beer and bitching.
But after that, maybe realise that the thing that you’ve lost was never bloody well yours to begin with. Although it may not feel like it (given your proximity to it), nothing has actually changed for you. No one has taken something from you. All that has occurred is that something that was never yours was not given to you.
And finally, just take a second to think…
When you win an award it is a wonderful feeling, there are so many incredible things that can come with it; gratification, personal fulfilment and satisfaction. These are all brilliant things.
But none of them really compare to the power of losing...
When you lose, something happens to you. An ember ignites. The spark of creation. Desire, want, hope, drive and ambition… these are the things that come of losing. It pushes you to be better, to work harder, to become greater, to show the world what you are made of.
It is not winning that makes a winner. It is losing.
Having said that, I'll still be blooming applying for every award I can find as I need the moolah innit!
Good night all. Tomorrow is the first presentation of The Wicker Husband at NAMT. Wish us luck!!