Saturday, November 14, 2009

Where Ethics Go To Die…

Since summer, I’ve been fighting a losing battle against my next book on philosophy. Dynamic Pluralism it was going to be called and the breakthrough idea was going to take ethical theory beyond the Pragmatists of the 20th century.

… but instead, I wrote another play…

And then, I readied myself to begin the book. I assembled all of my research. I wrote an outline.

… and then, I wrote another play…

And then, I gathered my wits and strengthened my resolve, preparing myself to write what I was sure would be a breakthrough book on philosophy.

… and about this time, I was invited to direct the staged reading for Murielle’s Big Date. This was back in October, and as I assembled my cast and began rehearsing I wondered, “Why do I keep stopping myself from writing this book on philosophy?” It wasn’t the subject matter. It was clear in my mind and from the philosophy professors I had run my theories by that this would be a breakthrough in ethics. But then, things became clear.

Many of the rejections I've received for Climbing Maya, my book on success, had nothing to do with the book itself. In fact, most of the time I’m told what a great idea the publisher or agent thinks it is. No, the reason that book gets rejected is because I’m not famous enough to get it published. That’s the thing. People don’t want to publish that sort of stuff unless they know you already have an audience who will buy it. I have accepted that Climbing Maya is a niche book and will require a niche publisher. If it ever gets published, it probably won’t sell well at all… so why would I put myself through that again?

And this is when I realized why I kept stopping myself from writing a book on ethics, because deep down I knew nobody was going to publish a book on ethics. Not from me, at least. Not until I had an audience. And maybe no one would ever publish such a book at all. Frankly, people don’t seem to care much about ethics at all.

The sad truth is that, at 44, my experience getting books published has been dismal. My record writing plays has actually been better... if only a little...

And that’s when it struck me. A book on ethics would never get anywhere… but a play on ethics… a farce about ethics… well… So, I decided to write a play called The Death of Ethics about the last people on earth after we’ve used up everything being questioned by one person why we would ever do that… in other words, questioning the ethics. I realized that poking fun at humanity’s record on ethics was a lot more fun that writing something instructive about ethics. And if people got the joke, they might just get the theory.

For instance, I could say that ethics differ from morals in that morality is based on religious practices and therefore open to interpretation. Or I could do this:

It is not the same thing. Morality is different. It’s dependent on your religious beliefs and how they’re interpreted.

No, they’re not!

What he means is that morality is only for stupid people.

I do not!

And that’s just more fun! More than that, it allows me to write comedy that’s more unique that your simple relationship play, which I’ve done so much.

So, this week, I finished the first act of the play. In that time, it has gelled into more that what I had originally conceived. It’s not just a philosophical farce… it’s also a musical! Yes, it’s my first musical – more or less – with two songs, the first of which a tune called “It Should Be Ethical To Be a Prick”.

Simply taking the idea on ethics and turning it on its head has opened an opportunity for something that transcends my usual comedy writing. And, if there’s one thing I know after the reading for Murielle’s Big Date, it’s that I can write comedy. My play had the audience roaring!

So, maybe things will work better this way. Maybe they won’t. But at my age I have come to realize I better damn well enjoy whatever I’m writing because that may be all I get out of it.

No comments: