By Hank Schob
The Pencil, Page, and Memory
Writing helps your technique. Penny & I have always stressed the importance of writing your choices down right in the script. We passionately remind our Acting Lions to “Always write it down. Never just ‘memorize’ the lines. Learn the scene, with all of your choices.” It is a crucial element of your acting technique. When I was still acting, I would often write out my lines on a legal pad. This would allow me lots of room to write all of my choices right into the script. The very act of writing down the lines seemed to imprint the lines in my brain. When your subconscious mind sees the choices written down, it recognizes them as concrete and thus commits them to memory on a much stronger level. I instinctively knew this to be true, but I wanted proof. How does writing things down change the way our brains process information?
Connecting the Dots
Writing things down (not typing) builds links between the spatial part of our brain we use to make our scratch marks on the page and the verbal part creativity of our brain we use to create words that give our pencil scratches meaning. Basically, writing it down connects the dots for us. In doing so, we strengthen the process by which we store and retrieve information.
One study showed that while most students retain about 40% of what is taught in a lecture, the students who take written notes tend to remember all of the important material, whereas the material remembered by the students who did not take written notes was random and disorganized.
Writing helps your performance. Research suggests that, when we write a thing down, our brain processes it as if we are actually doing it. Yes, the act of writing everything down has a positive impact on your acting. This means that when writing down your choices, your actions, tactics, emotions, substitutions and character’s memories, it is as if you are actually making those choices and feeling the emotions. And they imprint on your brain. This is something I have always known from the earliest days of my career. When I wrote things down, the scene came alive with all my choices and emotional substitutions early in rehearsal, even though I had never said the words out loud before. When we write down the character’s backstory, along with all of our choices, we deepen our emotional connection with the character’s life. They become real memories for us, which then allows us to get out of our heads when performing and truly live in the moment as the character. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Writing helps your career. I recently penned an advice column for Acting Lion Tips, called A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Dream. In it, I stressed the importance of writing down your goals for your future and cited a study of The Harvard MBA program that noted that, after 10 years, students who had written down their plan before graduating were 10 times more successful that those who did not. That is 1000% more successful! Just think what developing this habit might do for your career!
Write it down and it will change the way you act forever.