I was at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival last week. You should all be warned that I will probably be having a lot of fun with play titles for awhile here. Also, should anyone happen to be out in Oregon for whatever reason (like, because I told you to), there’s a play called Equivocation by Bill Cain that will blow your mind.
Titles aside, that was less of a completely random introduction than it seemed, because I’m about to discuss persistence. There is nothing that will remind you of persistence like really, really good acting.
No actor gets to be good by doing it once in rehearsal, calling it a day, and telling the director to call him back in for opening night. Actors do it over and over and over again. Until they get it perfect.
That’s what we’re talking about here: the persistence to get it right.
I need you to brace yourselves for a moment. What I am about to say may shock you, but I believe in your ability to withstand. If you should happen to faint, I will send a very nice young lady around (her name is Jenny) to revive you with smelling salts and a bucket of water. If she slaps you, you should know that it is only out of concern for your health.
There you go. You have been warned.
So here’s the revelation: I am not very good at some kinds of writing.
I KNOW. I’ll give you a moment to gather yourselves. Me, the darling of the Men! Not perfect? Astounding, is it not? Some of you will be thinking, “No, I can’t believe it> Never!”
Calm yourselves. I do not intend that it should be so for much longer.
Why? Because I am learning persistence, damn it.
The natural inclination of many writers is to try a style of writing once or twice. If people do not immediately bang down our doors with piles of the most touchingly written letters of adoration, we think that style is not worth pursuing. “Well, I tried blogging, but I really couldn’t get much of a readership together . . .”
“Oh? How long did you have the blog for?”
“Couple of weeks.”
“Huh. What was it about?”
“Oh, you know. Everything.”
“Did you try marketing it?”
We don’t learn to do better every day. We don’t approach our writing with the goal of getting one thing right today that we didn’t get right yesterday.
What’s more, if we fail at getting that one thing right, we think that it can’t be done at all. “That’s it. I’m giving up and going back to retail. I’m not cut out for the writing life.”
Persistence, my friends.
I was watching this group of actors and they amazed me. Probably every five seconds, they had wrung some new nuance out of the script. You don’t get those little moments of comedy and tragedy by giving it one shot and giving up. I’d be willing to bet each of those many brilliant moments came out of a single day of rehearsal.
Which is why there are so many damned days of rehearsal.
If they had only gotten one of those moments right and left it at that, the play would not have been anywhere near as good. It might actually have been terrible. One moment is not enough. You need a thousand.
It has to be so in your writing. For me, sales writing is not my forte. But every time I approach a new project, I have to seek out every place where I can make it just a little more brilliant. I go over it again and again. I eke out the extra details.
Persist. Persevere. If you’re not good at one kind of writing, work your butt off to get as much of it as you can, and go over it a thousand times looking for ways you can make it better.
You’ll screw it up. So did those actors, I’ll bet you. They probably had a hundred things they tried out that simply did not work. But they went and found something else to try. What eventually came of it was brilliance.
This can happen for your writing. Business, blogging, fiction, any kind of writing at all. Persevere. Persist. Make it just a little better than it was five minutes ago, and then again, and then again.
At the very end of it, if this play was any indication, there’s applause.
Editor’s note: For our French-Canadian friends, bonne fête pour la St-Jean!