The expression “to lose yourself” in the part or in the performance, which has so often been used by great artists in the theater, has always confused me. I find it much more stimulating to say that I want “to find myself” in the part. —Uta Hagen, Respect for Acting
To lose yourself in a story is to become utterly unselfconscious. This can be just as true of reading a story as of writing one. I remember telling my fifth grade teacher that when I read a book I became the main character. Now when I write a story, I do the same thing—my mind, body, and emotions are offered up to the characters. I’d like to say this is because I have a degree in drama (it sounds so educated!), but it began long before that, while running around the backyard with my brother being chased by mice the size of trucks that emerged from the caves of our imaginations.
These days, most of this process happens while sitting quietly at my desk. Even so, I am not satisfied with a scene until I feel that “click” of connection. Only then do the characters’ voices ring true. And in that connection with these diverse characters, I often find myself in unexpected ways.
At the Full-Bodied Novel Retreat in July, we’ll spend a weekend making these connections. This Friday is the deadline for the final discount code (MAY12), so this week, I’ll send a series of exercises designed to help you enter your scenes with the openness you had as a child and the wisdom you have as an adult.