I’m constantly amazed at how often the different areas of my studies and interests become interconnected. In general, I’m the type of person who likes to compartmentalize my life into neat categories that I can deal with separately. This semester, my Acting IV teacher has encouraged us to stop compartmentalizing our life and start looking for connections between our life and our art. Since his challenge, I’ve started noticing just how much every area of my life has the potential to bleed into the others. It makes life more exciting, diverse and colorful.
Along those observations, recent assignments and discussions we’ve had in my acting class have revolved around the concept of words. Obviously writing is all about the words, isn’t it? I mean, we spend hours agonizing over which words to use here or there, rewording sentences a zillion different ways until they sound just right and making sure our words are spelled and used correctly. Yet, in my acting class, our teacher is trying to get us away from focusing on the words. He wants us to see words as a vehicle for meaning, rather than meaning itself. With my writing background and my obsession with perfecting words and knowing exactly what each one means, it’s difficult for me as an actress to not become too intellectually consumed with the words themselves, but rather the larger meaning behind them. A quote he shared with us perfectly sums up this concept. Playwright Harold Pinter once said, “My play isn’t about the words. It’s about what’s going on that makes the words inevitable.”
Certainly, writing requires a great attention to the words we choose. I find it hard to believe that Pinter didn’t agonize over his word choice every now and then while writing his plays. Yet, the use of the word “inevitable” got me thinking about how we choose our words when writing. For example, my writing has a tendency to get too wordy. I like the way a word or phrase sounds, so I use it! Sometimes I use something just because I like the way it sounds. As a result, my writing becomes, muddied, superfluous and flowery. Aren’t the places where I feel like it’s too wordy where I have beyond the “inevitable” words? Perhaps a trick to making all of our writing meaningful, coherent and powerful is asking ourselves first and foremost what is going on in our minds, classes or daily lives that makes this writing we’re doing inevitable? We must hold on to whatever that overarching meaning is and let the words all work as tools to express that meaning. Then, we can go back over our writing and ask ourselves if the words we’ve chosen are truly inevitable. Certainly, I believe that there are times and places for richly descriptive, poetic, even indulgent or flowery, writing! But there are also places where we need clean and clear writing, even in the midst of a poetic or descriptive piece. Maybe this test of inevitability is a good place to start on the road to the most powerful writing.