Playwright As Fisherman

On the face of it there’s nothing to compare lobster fishing with play writing, but delve down and the similarities are there. One plunders humanity’s detritus, the other baits with putrid meat. Both, when successful, are ludicrously over-paid and their practitioners wonder where the next one’s coming from.

Seizure of moment is the key skill that a lobster fisherman shares with the playwright. Play writing involves accumulating diverse gobbets then judging the perfect time to feed them into the computer. Start to write too early with too few gobbets and you dry up, frustrated. If you leave it too late the material grows stale and the process becomes laboured. Its the same with lobsters. You shoot your pot you leave it lie. The prey smells the bait, expresses interest, wanders over and takes a look with those stalky eyes. It crawls around the pot and probes for the bait but can’t quite reach, so it swims in through the neck, dines and enters the parlour. Trapped. If you haul your pot too early you’ve lost your fish but if you leave it too late and the sea gets up, the pot shifts and in two days its gone.

The playwright who is also a lobster fisherman works to a lobster fisherman’s time frame. Life is governed by the moon. Writing becomes tidal, low water the deadline. There are no people about. No dogs. He closes his eyes and dreams. The playwright becomes not lobster fisherman, but lobster – the lobster occupies a hole in the rock and emerges at night. It is a solitary, cautious beast with few predators. Fiercely combative when threatened, it has survived millions of years without a brain.