For a very long time I bought into the “I’ll-try-harder” formula for succeeding. This led me…as an actor…to fail. I’m not an actor, so failing in this sphere of endeavor doesn’t matter much. (I’m a good acting coach and director, you figure?) I failed because I came across as having ingrained in me a Victorian concept of acting while nothing could be further from the truth. I think I know how to make anyone on stage appear professional. The concepts are easy, and it all comes back to not trying too hard.
I’ve read books about writing (Stunks’: THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE comes to mind. And have you ever tried reading FOWLER’S from cover to cover? That may be as silly as trying to read Webster.) and I have taken writing courses. My imagination has been fed, and I have been challenged in many ways. I think I’ve had everything I’ve needed. My mentors gave it to me. But, it was from my acting experience that I learned that you’re sometimes better off if you don’t give a damn.
Well-written works often tire me. I can usually tell when a writer has searched for the perfect word. That tells me they’ve worked too hard.
One of the hardest things for an actor to learn is how to do nothing on stage. And writing is the same. To get an idea of this I suggest you start by reading Hemingway or Thurber (not to copy their styles: you can’t and get away with it). I couldn’t spell very well, which often forced me to simplify my writing (Cat is certainly easier to spell than feline, and in most cases, a better word to use.) And when, not knowing any better, I wrote simply, and when I didn’t try so hard I was generally happier with the results. And I’m more critical of my work than anyone else because I care the most about it. And that also is a trap.
They’re everywhere. Traps.