26 April 2018

Acting in Writing - The Difficulty of Being an Artist

I think one thing fiction writers sometimes underestimate is how much acting ability you need to write well. You need to be able to put yourself in the heads of your entire cast and write the scenes from their emotional/logical perspective in order to do a story justice. You need to BE the character, no less than an actor on a stage or in front of a camera needs to BE the character.

Today I wrote a scene for my novel that occurs a few days after an important character's death. I write this two days shy of the anniversary of my cousin's death, and even three years removed, I can still remember the weight and vastness of the shock and the grief in the days that followed. A person who has not gone through this cannot do justice to it in writing or acting, but I can come close because I've been there. In some ways I'm still there. I know this grief. And that background makes the stories I tell more believable.

In the art I take in, that's what I look for -- I look for the person who can describe/express what I'm experiencing even when I can't. The only way you get to the point where you can describe it with intimate accuracy is to go through it. This scares me -- how much experience (heartbreak) am I going to be entrusted with as I continue to develop and pursue this calling to be an artist?

This is what makes the arts so difficult -- you have to go through so much in order to do justice to what you're talking about. This is what separates the posers and the wannabes from the true artists. The posers are in it for the prestige, for the elitist rush of complaining no-one understands them, so they can feel more intellectual. But the ones who truly are artists know, as the great Terry Scott Taylor once said, 'There's not a holy man who doesn't know grief well / Or think the road to heaven doesn't pass through hell...' (Jesus Wept, 2013).

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