Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Note of Enthusiasm

While writing is often considered a solitary pursuit, writers are reactive personalities, just like actors.   Think about it.  In a play, an actor feeds off of the energy of his audience.  If they aren't feeling it, the actor's performance can slip and his confidence gets shaken, and then the cycle not only continues, but gets worse.  When the actor isn't completely committed to his role, the audience becomes even more disgruntled.  BUT, just one actor who enjoys what he's doing can be the high point in an otherwise forgettable performance. 

A few years back, we caught a showing of The Phantom of the Opera. The main leads had the night off and the "second-string" cast was on stage.  It was a matinee on a grungy day, and the audience was still in heavy hibernation mode. The performers were technically hitting every mark, but everything just felt "off" .

This continued up to the Il Muto scene, when the character of Don Attillo (the foolish, letch-y old husband) came out with his few scant lines of song.  Meh. It was a one-dimensional caricature. It was the character I liked the least. The character that always just made me sick and cringey just watching him.

And he then he hit AND HELD an impossibly deeeeeeeeep bass note for a solid five minutes. 

By deep, I mean the guy was singing Straight. Out. Of. His. Knees. His voice never wavered, not even once. And when the audience, in understandable awe, began to applaud, he waved them off with a slight grin, and easily held that note EVEN longer.  Well, that was all the audience needed, and this throwaway character got a standing ovation right there.  The energy changed.  The audience was wholly invested now and the running bad joke became an instant object of admiration. A hero!  The other players instantly fed off the attitude shift and the rest of the performance was incredible.  It only took one person to just throw himself in with complete abandon.  To just say to himself, "Screw it, I'm going to have fun with this."  And instantly, everyone else was all-in.  To this day, I think of that note and I feel shivery and electrified all at once.

So to my point. Ladies and gentlemen, do not be afraid to jump in with joy.  There are any number of reasons to feel insecure about the writing game.  Maybe you're a newbie and are feeling utterly overwhelmed. Or maybe you're an old hand fighting writer's block.  Maybe you pinned your hopes on writing that elusive best seller, critic's darling and it hasn't happened.  Maybe you're afraid to show anyone what you're capable of, and your best work is still hidden away in a shoebox.  That's a whole lot of maybes, but here is one certainty.

The writing process is soooooo much easier and  vastly more pleasant when you surround yourself with people who build you up.  You'll want to prove yourself to them.  You'll want to see if you can out do yourself.  When you are around people who want to help, but aren't there to judge, it's like having a protective glow around you.  On a personal level, I've always felt that being around a group of people who challenge you and who are excited about the work they are doing is like riding in on a big wave.  Your heart literally feels as though it is being lifted up in your chest, and you feel ready to try anything.  And whether you write as a hobby, or have a more serious intentions, being willing to try anything, in a safe environment is a fabulous way to grow as a writer.    While I have always found Enthusiasm to be one of the most crucial components to the writing process, there are days, when that's a "harder sell" than others. Maybe this article will be useful.

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