When I read Sol Stein’s chapter from Stein on Writing titled The Actors Studio Method for Developing Drama in Plots, I felt vindicated. For years, I was an avid fan of Inside the Actors Studio (until the networks bought the Bravo Channel and ruined it). Other writers would give me a cockeyed look if I confessed to being inspired by it. But though they perform in a different medium, actors – the good ones, anyway – spend an incredible amount of time developing their characters.
Yes, the characters are on the page. But the actors are the ones who bring them to life. In Stein’s chapter, writers performed impromptu scenes. What they didn’t know was that the director had given them wildly different premises. I won’t give away Stein’s chapter completely, because writers wanting to better their craft should buy his book.
While some portions of episodes appear on Hulu.com and YouTube, the snippets aren’t always the most representative of craft. Many actors extensively research their roles, much like an author researches for authenticating details. They construct backstory with tedious detail. Many of the clips center more on the celebrity or entertainment aspect. Which is unfortunate for any creative person, regardless of the medium in which you create. (If anyone knows another site episodes are available, please let me know.)
Luckily the Sundance Channel launched a few new programs that allow you to get inside creative people’s heads. Spectacle with Elvis Costello features musicians who discuss their own inspirations. Iconoclasts pairs two amazing people from different walks of life with incredible results. Live from Abbey Road and too many other programs to list. If your cable channel doesn’t carry it, check it out online.
I’m also thankful to Borders for their in-depth web site featuring artists such as Madeleine Peyroux discussing their craft. I love the description of her voice as being “honey and bourbon”- so fitting. She speaks like an old soul, from the heart. For her, creating music is a spiritual experience, as writing can be a spiritual experience – when it goes well, at least. I also love their Book Club site featuring authors discussing their books.
Certainly listening to other writers discuss their craft inspires me, such as those I’d linked to in an earlier post from Ted.com. The latest issue of Poets and Writers, authors in the Writers Recommend feature list their own inspirations.
But I find listening to any artist discuss the process of their art inspiring. So I encourage you to be open to it, too. You never know when the lightning of inspiration will strike you.