Make it personal

One of the best advice I have received so far is to “make it personal”, which can be inevitably beneficial when you do not know where to go with your story. And by making things personal, I am not saying to take things personally and easily get offended. Here is what I mean as a writer with a little backstory first of how I came to that conclusion…

As some of you may know or not know, I have a background in method acting. While I had always admired the actors on screen, it was not until I moved to Montréal in 2014 that I dared to jump out of my comfort zone and put myself out there to dabble in something that had always been fascinating me: acting. My self-confidence was low, and having a camera directly pointed at me was the worst I could think of (and don’t even mention those dreadful close-ups!), but my mentors said I was doing fine.

Why did I take film acting classes in the first place if it made me uncomfortable then? Here is why… When I moved to Canada, I arrived as what Canadian immigration calls a sponsored skilled worker, which basically just means that a Canadian company provided me with a work permit in order to work for them. Being sponsored by an employer means that your work permit is limited or “closed” as they say. In other words, I was not allowed to work in any capacity and for any company other than the one that was sponsoring me. Also, I was not authorized to go to school. And even worse, I was not authorized to work in film, which I came for in the first place.

My ultimate goal in Canada was to immigrate as a permanent resident (and by now a proud Canadian) and work in the film industry as a screenwriter. Of course, I was able to keep on writing at home and the closed work permit also allowed me to attend short courses that would not exceed a certain amount of hours each week. With that in mind, I was looking for ways to start building my résumé that would help me transition into the film industry later on. As I had landed during the summer, I observed a lot of filming going in Montréal. Whenever I saw a no parking sign somewhere in the streets with a working title written on it, I was excited and tried to get closer to the set. One day I was lucky and one of my German role models, director Roland Emmerich, allowed me in to shadow him for a day. This way, I became interested in script supervising, because I was amazed how close the script supervisor was sitting to the director and remaining attached to the screenplay all day (I can’t help it, but I am simply in love with black Courier New printed on white paper).

Now, I got into acting, because the courses provided in the city were not only in agreement with my immigration status but I was suffering from severe writer’s block and thought that looking at my scripts from an actor’s point of view might improve the situation. While it did not improve a lot in the beginning, it created a spark that ignited a passion for method acting that has continued ever since. Eventually, I fulfilled one of my biggest dreams, or two, and studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute, both in Los Angeles and New York City. It had been one of those dreams I had had as a child when I had been looking up at my favorite actors and studied their backgrounds. I had been wanting to live just that life. However, at twelve years old, stuck in your child’s room in the middle of nowhere in Germany, this had been just a crazy idea to have, as the kids in school had been pointing their fingers at me and laughing whenever I had talked about becoming a filmmaker and going to North America one day.

Anyways, to get back to my original idea of this post… One of the most common advice you will receive in acting is to “make it personal”, and after a while, I realized that this is most of the time all you need to do in order to put a stop to this nagging thing called writer’s block. We have a plethora of experience and your life is not as boring as you think. If you take a closer look at your characters on your page, you will most likely see that you have already automatically and subconsciously injected bits and pieces of your and other people’s personalities and experiences in them, as we always write from a standpoint of what we know and, of course in this regard, whom we know.

Another valid advice writers give other writers who are suffering from writer’s block is to simply “write anything”. I had not believed in it until I began journaling, and I think that journaling is one of the best ways to not only keep the writing flowing but to get to know yourself better and understand the people and the world around you. Make it personal. What can be more personal than a journal? And the good thing is, nobody will get to see it, so you are as free to write anything as you can possibly be. I had started journaling about two years ago. It helped me healing parts of me that needed healing a long time ago. It helped me to understand myself and others and the situations I was caught up in. Eventually, it helped me to write my very first book. To my own surprise, the very first book I wrote was not related to the film industry, it was not a screenplay, not a novel, but it was personal, and by far the most personal story have ever written and the words just kept pouring out of me.

For more information on how to make things personal, I recommend to read about the methods and techniques by Konstantin Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, and Ivana Chubbuck and take an acting class to get into the habit of creating characters from the inside out.

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