Every time I mention that I’m in college to someone I ever just met, they inevitably ask the most common follow-up question: “What’s your major?”
This question requires me to explain: “I’m a double emphasis, studying acting and screenwriting.”
It doesn’t normally draw a vocal comment other than the generic ones that everyone receives: “That’s cool.” “Sounds fun.” “Interesting.” Or perhaps yet another follow-up question: “How’s that going?” “Do you like it?” “How busy does it keep you?”
However, despite the lack of interested responses, most people would not pair acting and writing in one person. On the one hand, the stereotypical actors: outgoing, extroverted, goofy. On the other, the stereotypical writers: withdrawn, introverted, serious. Those two trait sets do not easily mix; they are, after all, exact opposites. Because of these stereotypes, one wouldn’t think, “You know what would be great? An actor-writer!”
Said statement isn’t wrong, however.
If there is one thing that both acting and writing have in common, it’s their search for the truth. Ask any (good) acting teacher and they’ll tell you that acting is about the truth of the moment. Stanislavski and his method are really all about that. Ask any (good) writing teacher and they’ll tell you similarly, that writing is about the truth of the characters’ actions, feelings, reactions. Read Stephen King’s “On Writing” and he’ll tell you exactly that.
As an actor-writer myself, I can attest to the compatibility of these two fields. Both require a deep understanding of human nature in order to convey the truth to an audience. One simply does it visually, the other verbally. Combining the two leads to a greater understanding. Acting allows a writer insight into the inner workings of humanity. Writing allows an actor insight into the complexity of relationships and actions. Together, the actor-writer has a deeper, fuller, more well-rounded understanding of human nature.
Not all actors are outgoing, extroverted, goofy, just as not all writers are withdrawn, introverted, serious. Not all people fall into one category other than “human.” Not all people in one group fall into one category other than the grouping itself: “soccer team,” “class,” “family.” Each of us is more complex than the most intricate machine, no matter how many gears, gags, and whirligigs make it what it is.
That’s part of what makes humanity so interesting. We are all complex. We are all interesting. We are all unique. Some people can act. Good on them. Some people can write. Good on them. Some can do math or science or engineering. Good on them. We all have different talents, skills, capabilities. We have to learn to appreciate the ones we have, accept the ones we don’t have, and work together with the ones whose strengths complete our weaknesses.