You may have heard that language doesn't describe your reality, it creates it. One way I know this is true is from my experience with acting. I think most people would be incredibly surprised if they were to read a script or screenplay by how little is actually in a script or screenplay. The first time I read a script I was shocked to find just how little of what I'd seen on stage or film is actually in the script. I'll tell you what is in a script, dialog. And that's pretty much it. Really. Just people saying words.
I found this fact incredibly difficult and frustrating the first time I endeavored to write a script myself almost a decade ago. I couldn't understand how someone could tell an entire story, a riveting story of an event with dialog and only dialog. I had heard plenty in passing and cliche about the power of words, but it was when I began to study acting that I learned just how much information and power is in the words that people choose to use.
As an actor it is our job to pay attention to what language stirs in us as we say it. From words, a feeling, a picture, a walk, a way of being begins to form inside us. Our craft is to nurture those internal things forward into a character that then plays in relationship to the other characters in the scene. All these things driven initially by words on a page, take on a life of their own. It was from looking at this picture backwards that I began to understand just how powerful words can be. I then began to wonder how my own script informs me physically and emotionally. Who have I become because of the words I choose to use? Who have I attracted to me with my language?
I recall reading an academic essay over a decade ago that suggested that an ever narrowing vocabulary has trapped communities in poverty, violence, and depression. I’m not entirely sure, but I believe this concept was called something fancy like linguistic dispossession. I remember thinking that the concept was a little radical and yet I knew intuitively from my own struggles expressing myself through words, that there was some truth there. I think many of us crave a more expansive vocabulary to express who we are and what we’re capable of.
So what then? Maybe you've reached this point and you are beginning to have some ideas about what you’ll do with my words as I've offered them. Maybe you have questions. More likely at this point you’re curious about my particular point of view, my conclusion of this topic I've chosen to briefly explore - this is where that sort of thing would go, would it not?
In the interest of honoring our mutual need for linguistic climax, I offer these three final thoughts without further explanation: If you don’t like the way your life feels, try using new words to describe your life. If you think someone else’s life is better than yours, try on their words and see how they feel for you. Finally and less intuitively, in order for the first two suggestions to actually work, you will need to change the way you express your opinions of others. Certainly some of us have shitty self talk, but I promise that what we say about others has an even greater impact on who we’re able to be than what we say about ourselves. Frankly, and I won’t get into why this is true, our brains will always assume our fingers are pointed inward and the words we use against others only hurt ourselves. Our words really are that powerful.
(Catalyst, Breakthrough Specialist, Baggage Assassin, Quit Smoking Specialist, Idea Consultant, Force of Nature)