Writing, Acting, and Celebrity
A couple weeks ago, I was having a dinner and drinks with my buddy Mark John, and we were listening to vinyls and talking about stuff like good and bad editors, and what it’s like to deal with them. At some point, I segued into how I think writing was a lot like acting, and he cut in and said that I’d got that idea from him.
Who knows? Maybes he’s right. Maybe I did get the idea from him and just don’t remember hearing him say it first. Or maybe I really did come up with it on my own. Either way, it doesn’t really matter because it turns out that it’s not even that much of an original idea.
But if you think about it, being a writer is a lot like being an actor in the sense that every time you put pen to paper (or ass to chair, as it were), you’re getting into character.
Maybe that character is the narrator of the Great American novel you’ve been working on for years — in which case your life’s gotta suck at times, ’cause that kind of thing can push actors over the edge in only months.
Or maybe you’re a copywriter working at an agency, where you wear the masks of so many different brands every day of the week. Or a content specialist working in-house for a big company, where you play the same role five days a week, like you’re on a Soap Opera, except the sex, murder, and betrayal has been replaced by gossip, meetings, and betrayal.
Television writers have it either the best or worst, depending on how you look it. They get/have to play just about every character on a show whenever they write an episode.
Anyway, the point is that if you’re going to write anything that’s good, you’re gonna need to really get in and behind it, and the moment you do that, you’re doing exactly what an actor is doing. The only difference is that you’re doing it in private, instead of on a stage or in front of a camera.
And maybe it’s an intuitive understanding of this that makes so many people want to be writers at some point in their life. Your success as a writer has nothing to do with your boobs, or your ass, or good looks. Unlike acting, you can not only succeed at it despite your social anxiety, but because of it — as long as you have good ideasand know how to tell a story, that is.
Of course, it still requires talent, luck, and hard work, three things that don’t always co-exist in one person, but when they do, someone’s getting rich and famous. And if you think about it, it’s pretty much the best kind of celebrity you can achieve at this point in history. You have wealth and influence, but usually remain anonymous when out in public. People recognize your name, but not your face. You don’t have to sign autographs or pose for selfies, and the tabloids generally don’t care about the yoga pants you were wearing when you took out the trash last week, or how drunk you were when you did.
Of course, an actor who cherishes their anonymity too much wouldn’t be much of an actor at all, and some writers are complete divas and tabloid whores, but that’s another blog post for another day, and who’s to say I’ll even get around to writing it when if and when that day comes?
The point is that it’d seem that The Man was right when he said that all the world’s a stage. It doesn’t really matter what you’re doing, if you’re going to do it well, and if you’re going to really succeed at it, you really need get in and behind it. You need to get into character.