Lessons For Writing From Acting

I was just working on a play called Mother of the Maid by Jane Anderson at Pygmalion Theatre. For me, acting is a completely different gear than writing. In some ways, it’s paradoxically more interior — in the sense that, while I’m acting, I’m more likely to meditate, to think about my mental health, and to approach my creative faculty with care and intention.

Backstage for Mother of the Maid, as with other productions, I made a habit of deep breathing, of clearing the surface mind, and invoking states of ease and selflessness.

At some point, I wondered, “Why don’t do I this every day before I write?”

Well, I’m going to give it a try.

Until now, my good acting habits haven’t become good writing habits, I think, because there’s less felt urgency in writing. I’m typing this blog in my home office with no one watching me. I can hear mourning doves cooing outside. The low techno music of traffic. Yeah, there’s always an audience in my head, but it’s possible to lose track of it entirely. In acting, you can get into the scene so deeply in that you’re not self-conscious, but you’re always devoting some energy and attention to hitting your marks, finding your light, turning out (toward the audience), projecting the voice, and so on.

In acting, there’s a palpable interrelationship between you and your imagination and the set, the props, the lights, the costumes, your scene partners, and the many people watching every moment. Keeping this interrelationship alive and interesting requires a lot of preparation, of course, but also a certain kind of composure — which I like to sum up with words like ease, radical acceptance, focus, generosity of spirit, and selflessness. The job of acting is just easier if I operate from those qualities.

Maybe writing would be easier too if I intentionally cultivated those states during my day.

Photo by Wesley Pribadi on Unsplash