What Will Happen If I Mix This with That?

Something I tell my actors whenever we rehearse a show is that I want them to feel free to start experimenting. During a production, the first few weeks are filled with crazy progress where actors get to know each other and their characters, learn their movements, get comfortable with their lines, and so on. Then it stagnates as we just repeat, repeat, repeat to get those parts memorized. A final burst of amazing progress happens as we get off book and the actors start experimenting with their delivery. I’ve always encouraged this, because, in those experiments, we find moments of genius.

I have found that this happens in writing too. We start off with lots of ideas and plotting and inspiration. Then we sit down to write and it’s just a case of getting out what you have in your head. But you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment, to try a new approach, to examine a new genre, character, plot structure, style. These experiments stretch your ability as a creator, shows you your weaknesses, builds your strengths. Writing should be about learning as well as creating. Every piece is a new opportunity. Writing is an almost alchemical process–mix a little of this and that and “Whoa watch out for this crazy idea” and poof! Lead into gold!

One of my writers’ club members, who stuck steadfastly to memoir, took a major leap of faith on my request and wrote a mystery script for my company. It was a whole new genre, a whole new style, just everything was new and scary to her. But in the end–I kid you not–it ended up being one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long time. She took a chance, experimented, pushed herself, and produced magic.

Feel free to experiment and push yourself. You just might turn lead into gold.

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