Life of Art interview: Gemma Irish

Thinky and sassy and pretty all rolled into one.

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now?

I am a playwright, and possibly an actress, and also a Director Assistant at a giant corporation during the day, which allows me to pay my rent, have health insurance, and put money towards my eventual retirement. I’ve worked out a sweet deal with my boss where I work long days Monday – Thursday, and then have every Friday off to stay home and write.

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

I am not an every-day writer. On Fridays, I write for long, concentrated periods of time and go really deep into what I’m doing. On not-Fridays, my writing looks more like verbal scrapbooking – collecting thoughts, ideas, inspiration, new words, weird wikipedia articles, etc.

What I am trying to learn from my practice is patience. You can’t rush the creative process. A play takes as long as it takes to emerge from the messy jumble of ideas – I just have to sit back and try not to control the process. Man, I love to try and control the process.

Where do you find inspiration?

The newspaper. The internet. I love watching people on the bus and trying to decide where they are headed. I know this sounds crazy, but I actually love seeing bad plays because I like to try and understand why they weren’t successful. I love a good trainwreck.

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

Talking to other artists about their process has been really helpful to me – oh, you mean you go through the over-obvious first draft, too? And sometimes you feel lonely when you are working on something? Me too!

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

I take long walks. When I lived in Brooklyn I used to set out across the Williamsburg Bridge and just walk uptown until I felt sane and happy again. Sometimes that was ten blocks, sometimes it was fifty.

What does success look like to you?

I struggle with this – I want people to think I’m cool. I know that’s pathetic, but that’s often what I think success means. But that is not what success means! Success has to do with connecting with other human beings – if my play goes deep, gets honest, makes you connect to something in your own life, which then makes you feel connected to the human existence, that’s success.

I will also say that I hope someday someone besides me produces my work.

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

I don’t think we choose art, I think it chooses us. Also you can’t lie when you make art – it keeps me honest. I appreciate that.

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