I read an acting book (actually it was a book aimed at directors) by a man who hated himself. I mean, he HATED himself. The book itself was pretty useful, as a treatise on directing, and the management of actors as a general group, but the preface–PHEW!
So Much Vitriol
So he’d written this book about handling actors, right? And it was a pretty perceptive, useful book.
Except For The Preface
You see, in the preface, his mask slipped, and he … um, was honest. He talked a little bit about his journey as a director, and there was raging, debilitating self-hate through every word.
The funny part (which is only amusing because he felt so sorry for himself in a melodramatic way) is that he wasn’t aware at all that he hated himself.
I mean, he knew, most probably, that he hated himself, but he didn’t at all realize (based on what he wrote, and how he wrote it) that he hated himself FOR GIVING UP ON HIMSELF AS AN ACTOR.
He didn’t see that, or realize it.
Because, You See
He really wanted to be an actor, more than anything in the universe. You could read it, taste his passion bleeding through the page, oozing through the words. He wanted to be somebody, become a real force in the world of acting.
And he felt like he couldn’t.
Because, dear reader, he revised himself.
He cut away at his original craft, his impulse towards creation, his soul. He wanted to be good so badly that he was willing to murder and contort his original offering of self in order to make himself over into, to his mind, something magnificent and special.
In frantically revising his personality and presentation as a young man, he destroyed, temporarily, his ability to act.
The destruction was temporary, but he was impatient, and insecure, and he wanted success NOW.
RIGHT NOW, In Fact
He wanted to be good enough NOW, not tomorrow, not next year, not after ten years of work, he wanted to find fame and acceptance and glory RIGHT NOW.
So he turned his passion for acting, twisted it, contorted it viciously, into a passion for HELPING OTHER ACTORS.
He found so much success in this, because his original drive was so deep, that he gave up on the idea of an actor and labeled himself as a director who had just started off confused. “I’m a director!” he shouted to himself. “Ha ha! I was such a newb! I thought I wanted to act!” (Imagine the sobbing that was going on underneath those words, if you will.)
So, What Does That Mean For You?
When you revise your work, as the writer you currently are, you destroy your soul.
I’m not talking about catching typos. I’m not talking about that afternoon when you realize that Gyinoss would flow better in the text if you renamed him Janos. And I’m not talking about that late-night session when you realize you skipped some emotional development in the second half of chapter twelve.
Those are editing tasks; they ADD to what is already there, and further develop the writing you’ve put down.
Revisions means pruning and cutting. Revisions means taking a scene that you label as BAD and rewriting it while judging yourself to make it NOT BAD. Not to make it better, not to heal up some emotional confusion, but to wipe out the original development and action sequence and write a BETTER ONE to replace it.
Dana mowed through the grove on the back of the machine, cutting down several young trees as she moved to cut a pattern in the shape of her name in the grass. Oh, what a good message this will send to the woodland creatures, Dana thought. The squirrels, in particular, had been getting above themselves lately, and all of the birds were making complaints by the time their nests lay ruined in the grass and mangled by the teeth of the mower. Ha ha! Dana thought, and she set fire to the downed trees.
Dana Williams drove her young goats towards the grove of saplings where the unruly squirrels lived. Normally Dana had warm and cozy feelings towards all the woodland creatures, but the squirrels as a group, ever since Darryl had enchanted them to make them clever and talkative, had formed a nuisance that was swiftly destroying the neighborhood.
Their mischief had started out innocently enough; a few eggs smashed against windows and a couple of cows stolen and hidden in living rooms or tethered in the central intersection of the town. Soon, though, the squirrels had escalated to theft, destruction of private and public property, and kidnapping of pets.
By the time the fourth ransom note for a cat had shown up pinned to the town hall door with a sharp stone, Dana decided it was time for something to be done.
The squirrels had taken up with the bluejays, and the two groups formed a rowdy, insolent gang of small beasts who ran rough-shod over peace, quiet, and neighborly civility.
As soon as Dana brought her small herd of goats to the grove, she slipped their collars, drew a narrow hatchet from her waist, and proceeded to chop down and pile up every sapling in the area. Her ax was sharp, and her hoists and blows were full of vim and grim decision.
Dana had not been able to locate the squirrels, to ransom and retrieve her own cat, Mr. Fluffles, and Mr. Fluffles’ head and dismembered corpse had been left on Dana’s front porch one week ago today.
The goats grazed down the grass and undergrowth to the dirt as she worked, and before long, Dana had an enormous pile of felled sapling and a stubby, shorn piece of land that looked as if it had received a merciless shave with a rough-toothed razor.
The squirrels came into sight over the nearest hill, hooting and shouting obscenities in their usual way, just in time to see Dana pull an economical welding torch from her bag and set fire to the heap of cut wood.
“Nooo!” the foremost squirrel bellowed, his enormous front teeth bared in a howl of fury.
“This is war, Dana Williams!” another gray squirrel screeched.
“I’ll fetch the bluejays!” a juvenile squirrel yelped, skidding away just as Dana’s flame caught against the base of the pile of cut trees.
Dana smiled when she heard this, for she had a wicked little bird-shooting gun tucked down the back of her bag. I will be eating fresh bluejay and squirrel tonight, Dana thought, as she turned and prepared to flame the onslaught of squirrels into shrieking little balls of fiery death.
When You Write To NOT SUCK, Your Writing Sucks
Our director-author who hated himself had a blistering genius and passion for directing, because he had taken a true love for acting, and a genuine ambition for acting, and mashed and twisted it up until it became a subverted ability to make OTHER people into decent actors.
Not into brilliant actors, because he wasn’t one himself. You can’t guide someone into a talent you don’t understand yourself. The man was blind, when it came to healthy vanity, to personality development, to fame. He had no idea how he’d failed, or even that he had failed as an actor. He thought he’d made an informed choice into a more suitable field.
He Was So Angry With Himself
This was a betrayal, of himself against himself.
Now, there are actors who try directing and find a genuine passion for it. There are tons of people who write a book, or a scene, look at it, and say, I can write this SAME SEQUENCE OF ACTIONS AND EVENTS in a cleaner, stronger way.
That’s not the negative type of revision I’m hammering against right now. Redrafting and editing are great, and if you make positive changes and additions while revising, and calling it revision, then you’re doing the right thing; awesome.
Revision, as I’m talking right now, for this subject, means CUTTING, DISCARDING, and DESTROYING vital parts of your personal, inner vision.
That’s Self-Immolation, And It’s Morally Wrong
Don’t revise. Edit.
You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m on a high of adrenaline because of reasons. In my current novel, John Benzing is suffering an unfortunate emotional breakdown. His graft is still a secret from almost everyone.