Words of inspiration from Alec Baldwin…
Early this morning (6 AM to be exact), I watched a rerun of Inside the Actors Studio. It’s one of my favorite shows, in part because James Lipton is such a great interviewer — I pick up pointers from watching him that I use when I interview people for articles or blogs — and in part because the guests are so naked on the show. They are willing to talk about their vulnerabilities, their challenges, what matters to them and what they are, even at their stage of success, still trying to achieve.
So this morning, the guest was Alec Baldwin, and one of his final comments (when discussing performing in theater) was “Every performance…is an opportunity to prove yourself…” And I realized that I need to approach my writing that way. I need to always be trying to outdo myself, to push past not only my comfort zone but also my level of performance, to exceed what and how I wrote in the past to create something newer, better, stronger, deeper, richer.
In my “work writing” (my term for what I do for editors and clients) I, of course, am trying to meet their expectations: turn in that article or copy that does what they want it to do. But in my fiction, the only audience I have is myself. I am the writer but also I am the “client”: I need to satisfy my own expectations. I need to exceed my own past performance. I need to do it better this time than I did last time and the time before that.
And it’s hard. It’s damn hard. Because when you are the one not only doing the writing but also the person judging what was done, you start checking every paragraph, every line, every word the moment it’s put in fixed form.
You start second-guessing yourself, questioning if you still have “it” (and on bad days, if you ever had “it” to begin with!).
You get out there on the “stage” (the stage, in this case, being your computer or your notebook or whatever place and way you start the writing process) and write your sad line and wait for your audience-of-one to cry. Or write your funny line and wait for your audience-of-one to laugh. Or write your incredibly moving, inspiring, provocative line and wait for your audience-of-one to gasp or murmur in agreement or do something, for God’s sake, that means it hit home.
And you’re that audience-of-one which makes it all the more difficult.
But you keep trying because, in the end, what else is there but writing.
In the beginning, so says the Bible, there was the Word.
And in the end, if we are very, very lucky, we will have lots of words — all given to us by God or the Creator or the Universe or whatever we believe in — and it’s up to us to make sure those words are the very best we can write.