On Acting (another post for young writers)

What does acting have to do with writing? In my  experience, the two are rather similar. When I was in high school, I was in a really great theater program. You had to audition to get in, and the teacher was amazing and hard and sometimes a little mean. We loved her. She was the first teacher I ever had who made me work. I wanted to please her. She wanted, demanded, and succeeded in directing high school plays that were top quality. We were serious. We were all decent actresses and actors and we worked our butts off. This is, incidentally, the same way to become a good writer.
The teacher/director taught us the difference between acting and Acting! Acting! is John Lithgow and Jon Lovitz doing their Baudelaire skit on Saturday Night Live. “Acting! Genius! Thank you!” Okay, so you’re too young to remember it. Google it. Seriously. Go now.
That is Acting! Acting! is what you want to avoid. Similarly, Writing! is what you want to avoid. Writing is true and from the heart. Writing is not using a bunch of big words that no one can understand. That is Writing! Writing is not using metaphors that sound good but don’t work at all. It is not cliches and melodrama. Writing is you, not trying to please anyone, not trying to write like anyone else. Just pouring your heart onto the page. What could be simpler? Don’t force it. You will find your voice. I promise.
Okay so I was joking when I said What could be simpler. Pouring your heart onto the page may be one of the hardest things you may ever do. But if you are a writer, and you know it if you are, then you must do it. Start small. Baby steps. It does get easier.
One more thing about acting. I have always been able to write dialogue. I’m not saying this to brag, or because I even believe it wholeheartedly. But people have said this to me over and over again, from my very first writing workshop in college. “You know how to write dialogue.” I have heard people say that they wrote entire books without dialogue because they couldn’t figure out how to make the words ring true. I credit acting. I had to read a lot of plays when I was a teenager. I had to read them and audition them and ultimately memorize my part. And what are plays but dialogue? If you are stuck on dialogue, go read a play. Even better, choose a character (who is similar in age to you or the character you want to write about) and act that part out as you read through the play. You can do this quietly, all by your self. No one will ever have to know what you are doing. If you do it enough, the dialogue will come.

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