I’m so incredibly grateful to be doing this whole writing gig. It settles the madly bouncing voices in my head, and once one story’s put to bed I have about thirty others worth exploring, with new ones popping in for a visit all the time. (It is very, very busy in my brain. Seriously, it’s like a Grand Central Station populated by Sonic Hedgehogs in here.)
I’m learning things every day, it seems–about the art and craft in general, and about my own skill level in it. And I’m thankful for every single lesson, because it makes me better. This month I’ve started drafting a quieter piece, with no big-budget action to speak of. No explosions, no demons, no wrassling with the Powers That Be and impending apocalypse. This is way out of my comfort zone, so I’m going to need every trick up my sleeve and then some. It’s a place that’s uncomfortable and invigorating at the same time.
As a wee theatre geek back in high school, I had the rare privilege to work with a Broadway veteran as my theatre director. She was in the original Rocky Horror Picture Show on Broadway as a Time Warp dancer, and performed as a dancing zombie in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. Those of us in the advanced program thought we were totally going to New York or LA to become Big Stars. (I, personally, was going to join the cast of Cats.) Natrually, about–oh, 98%–of us were wrong. Here’s the irony: about the same percentage of us hated to audition. HATED IT. After all, most of us auditioned to get into the advanced program to begin with, a few (like me) were scouted from elsewhere like show choir, the basic program (I came in after a semester of Stage Crafts 101), etc.
Here’s the moral lesson: those who loved to audition got the best roles, and it showed. My boyfriend, for instance, had his chosen part’s lines–indeed, the entire play–memorized by the time auditions came around. He’d already invested in deep character work, and trained himself into the role he wanted for weeks ahead of time. He prepared for an audition like one would a marathon. He was amazing. Now? He’s in Brooklyn performing and writing his own award-winning plays Off and Off-Off Broadway. Because he loved to audition.
Me? I did all right–character roles, lead dancing, supporting comedic parts. As it happened, I was good at auditioning, which I found out later when I missed some really good parts by mere inches. Now I know if I’d learned to love auditioning, I would have nailed them to the wall like a bad toupee.
The reason we had to learn to love auditioning, our director told us, is because we’re going to get rejected. A lot. Sometimes, without even opening our mouths.
Talk about a bucket of ice water over the head. Yee-owtch. So much for our delicate 16-year-old egos.
Writing is the same way. Sending out query packages and manuscipts is the Word Wrangling way of auditioning. And just like auditions, querying is going to result in result in rejects. A lot of ’em. Sometimes within the first couple of sentences. Therefore, love to query. Love to throw caution to the winds, stop thinking about doing it, and just do it. Fear no agent or editor.
Why? It’s all subjective anyway. You’re not supposed to take a reject personally–someone out there is going to love what you’re doing, you just gotta do your homework to narrow the field (and the odds) of finding that one person. If you don’t get one story off the ground, well, there are other stories out there.
Once Mrs. J. dowsed us with ice water, she didn’t just leave it at that. She taught us the fine art of the audition, helped us build a portfolio of characters and techniques, video taped us–in short, she taught us to take the guesswork out of the process, so we could shake loose and learn to enjoy it. As soon as the joy came, so did the parts because we’d learned to leave our baggage outside the theatre and, unhindered, let our personalities soar. Believe me, the joy shows. It becomes your voice.
Do your homework. Do the very best that you can. Craft and polish and learn everyday, especially from mistakes. Not everything will work, but learn to recognize what does and what doesn’t and, above all, WHY.
Learn to love it.