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Three Similarities in Theater and Writing

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(first printed Dec. 7, 2018)

“All the world’s a stage,” so they say, and a backdrop for what we experience, how we react and respond, what we do, what and how we learn.

For six years, I worked in theater, the person behind the scenes as production manager, costume assistant, seamstress, hair/makeup assistant, and as backstage rehearsal support. Long hours, late nights, and large cups of strong coffee were my best friends during those years.

And now as a writer, long hours, late nights, and lots of coffee are still my best friends. I get to work with a different type of “stage”: the backdrop of paper and the illustration of ink. And my characters are, well, the actors. And I’m the director. Or at least I try to be.

Do I miss the stage? You bet I do! A piece of my heart belongs to the world of theater, and I secretly want to join a traveling acting team. (Shhh, don’t tell anyone!) The picture above is special to me because it was a debut production. “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” and the actors who performed each role ravished students, faculty, and staff with its swashbuckling, wit, and intense moments during every night of the performance.

Delightfully enough, the acting and writing are similar. And without further ado, may I present three things wherein writing and acting similar.

  1. Creativity
    Just as the director must devise creative ways to direct the cast in how to produce just the right emotion, the right action, the right message that conveys the correct audience response, so does the writing need to create compelling characters, engaging plot, and a strong message that encourages readers.
  2. Conciseness
    Just as the script must include those actions, cues, and dialogue needs to tell a tight story with a lesson, moral, truth, or concept, so writing should convey a well-planned plot that presents only those details that further enhance the story’s message, the character’s desire/goal, and the author’s intent.
  3. Cleverness
    Just like every road has a turn, every great play has that twist, that sudden “What? No way! That can’t—” which catches the viewer off guard and sets them on the edge of their seat. Likewise, a great story will have that shock factor that grabs the reader by the throat or causes their heart to connect with the character, and thereby compelling the reader to read just one more chapter until they’ve reached the end.

My creative friends, seek to craft a work that is creative, concise, and clever, for in doing so, readers (and viewers alike) will have a wonderful reading (or viewing) experience.

Your Turn!

What other similarities would you add?

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Defining Success Part Four

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Sometimes I’d like to quit. Really. Just close up the piano and bolt the lid, and snuggle down with a nice cup of coffee and listen to good, encouraging music. This is true when I feel like I’ve made an egregious error or said something that came out the wrong way when I didn’t mean for it to—but the “enter” key has already been punched before I could delete; and the words have escaped my lips. And especially true when I may not have gotten as much sleep as I wanted, or have had a full calendar. It’s then life becomes one big mess of words, you know?

Do you ever struggle with saying the right words at the wrong time or the wrong words at the right time? Perhaps I’m not the only one who feels this way from time to time. . . Nevertheless, it’s a part of fallen humanity, and I imagine we’ve all had those moments of “Oh man, I can’t believe I said it that way. . . Well, guess it’s too late to retract my words—they’re already out there.” And then we find ourselves praying, “God, please forgive me. Strip away any words that would sound arrogant or unhelpful or unkind” or “God, please use this experience to help me grow,” and “Please help me to choose my words more wisely next time so that they reflect you.” However the case may be for you, dear reader, when our words—spoken or written—come out sounding all wrong like a piano with a bad cold, it’s always a good idea to take a moment to reflect.

Such is a moment for reflection, and midyear is a good time for it, right? And in reflection, we can indeed grow from that little experience and thus know how to respond better the next time. Sometimes it always feels as if it’s the next time most of the time.

Perhaps a personal anecdote may illustrate this. Usually I like to read agency blog posts and comment on nearly every blog post. The particular blog post spoke of the tension in promotion (of an author’s books), and was it faithful promotion or self-ful promotion? Was there indeed a tension? the agent wanted to know. And so I responded, essentially saying that there necessarily wasn’t “tension in the marketing,” and the rest of my reply, the way it sounded—after, of course, I posted the reply—was like fingernails across the blackboard, and what sounded like a prideful statement. In reality, however, that’s not how I meant to say it at all.

Ah, broken humanity, such as we are. It is only by God’s grace that we aren’t in worse shape, for God’s grace keeps us and encourages us and, yes, admonishes us when we need it. From there, we can learn and grow so that the next time becomes less and less.

So the next time I’m—we’re—tempted to say something, let’s give our answers a third glance-over or engage our brains a little deeper and make sure that’s how we truly want to word it, and what we really mean to say. And as a writer, it’s such a huge responsibility to type each word, and it sends humbling chills down my spine to think that the words God’s given me will someday be read by others, if he so chooses.

Words. They’re tricky little things, aren’t they?

As¬†Ignatius Loyola said, “Work as if everything depends on you.¬†Pray as if everything depends on God.”

I guess maybe quitting isn’t the best course of action, because I truly love what I do. And maybe I really don’t want to quit. Perhaps the best course of action is to make sure we’ve had enough sleep, or enough coffee in our system, or re-read a passage for better clarity, so that we can have that certain measure of confidence before sending our words out into the world. And by that—and especially by keeping the focus where it needs to be, on God—we can rest in the success, knowing that it truly is from him because he created words.