As we move into November, in which some people participate in National Novel Writing Month(NaNoWriMo), and try to write a novel in a month(Oh god how, how, how!?), I thought some musings on writing would be appropriate. I myself will be participating in an event of my own creation, NaNoWoOMoIMeCoOOliYoNeTFoAlThiIGeRi (National Novel Working On Month I Mean Come On Olivia You Need To Focus Already This Is Getting Ridiculous).
Actors, we could probably agree, are a form of emotional shapeshifter, slipping from one role to another (with a great deal of work involved). Acting is a magical art form where you take mundane things and transform them into something magnificent. Do people typically think of writing in a similar vein? This is not a rhetorical question, people, being inside of the issue with my own set opinion I don’t see it objectively. Regardless of the answer, I will make my case.
As a writer who began as an actor, I often say that I really don’t think that I would write the way I do if it weren’t for my acting experience. When you act you have to employ all sorts of techniques to perform this marvelous feat of psychology and get into someone else’s head. As if it wasn’t bad enough, this consciousness that you are to become the vessel for is not even real, or not the way we usually imagine reality. (Excluding, of course, plays that include historical or contemporary figures that do exist in the physical world).
So, putting a pin in acting for a moment, we’ll examine what exactly writers do (other than procrastinate, if you’re me). When you write you become the god of your own little universe. You can literally do anything. Dragons? Sure, man. Sentient plants? Bring it on. Zombie vampire Romeo and Juliet where everyone dies and then Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream does his ending speech and flies off into the night dragging the rotting corpses of the lovers behind him before the whole place is engulfed in flames. Listen, whatever you want, okay? I’m not promising high quality content but at least you’ll have fun. The thing with writing is that you’ve got all these characters to balance. You have bring them to life, give them distinctly different thoughts, personalities, and speech patterns. Writers have to be able to get in all of their heads, essentially slipping in and out of character every time the point of view changes.
The way I see it, writers are actors who play millions of roles at once, and who only get one chance not to screw up. With live theatre, if a show goes poorly, well, you’re never getting that show back, but you can do better tomorrow night. Once you publish a book it’s out there and you better hope you don’t regret it.
This is by no means to minimize what it is to be an actor. Trust me. Acting isn’t just a simple little romp through a sunlight park. And I was only in an intensive program in school, I can’t imagine how it must be for actual, professional actors. This is just my experience. I certainly wouldn’t write dialogue the way I do if I hadn’t started as a playwright, and I wouldn’t have written plays the way I did if I hadn’t started as an actor. All of these shapeshifter professions complement each other, and work together seamlessly.