You won’t make fun of me, will you, if I tell you I sometimes act out what I’m writing? Usually I only do this in my mind, but if I’m having trouble choreographing a scene, I may well get up and see how it would work, pace it with the dialogue.
Sometimes when I am working with troublesome characters I will wear holes in the carpet while letting them talk, will argue with them. They use my hands to show me what they mean. Maybe that’s acting, or maybe that’s the extreme of active listening. (Insert smiley face here.)
At any rate, the best writers use their imaginations as much as they use words. They write as if they are the character, even characters they want to hate. (Caveat: we never hate any of our characters, not even the worst ones, because they possess a seed of ourselves and that’s how we are able to bear being who we are. Or that’s my theory.) If that’s not a kind of acting, I don’t know what is.
How can you despise someone after you allow yourself to feel with his or her hands? How can you not round a character (even if she is modeled after someone whose bed you’d like to short sheet) when you allow yourself to imagine what this playground scene would look like to you if you were this woman who had just had a miscarriage?
Come now, Dear Writer. Let us confess that the reason we write is to right our lives. Often we want to BE someone else, if only for a time. Perhaps we want to travel to a place or a time to which we have never been, and so we act as if we are there, witnessing every moment. It’s all acting. We never have to settle for what is when we can act as if, can write as if. We can live any life, love anyone, and try on any lifestyle we choose with no consequences.
So the next time you get stuck while writing, act as if. Write as if. Live as if. I can’t finish those for you. To turn those fragments into sentences is yours alone. Action!
P.S. In case you were wondering about the photo, there I am in my cat mask with my writer friend Shirley Jump and running buddies at the Fright Night race. Both Shirley and I came in third place for our age groups. Score!