It's not precious!
This work is not precious!! I remember the first time I heard that phrase. I was fairly new to acting and we had just received new scenes. I was watching two people perform and I was blown away by how much emotion they brought so quickly to the scene—we’d only received these scenes minutes before! However, my wise teacher said to them, “don’t be so precious with the lines.” I was so confused but they understood. Their next reading was (to my amazement) even better—so much more resonant and believable. It felt more authentic and I felt like I was eavesdropping into a real life couple’s breakup conversation.
I have been unpacking that idea ever since with mixed results. But here’s what I know: there is freedom in remembering that this work isn’t precious! I looked up the definition of precious and it’s cherished, dear, and beloved. The funny thing is that this work isn’t the opposite of precious because then I’d be saying it’s disdained, disfavored, abhorred and those words certainly don’t fit. It’s simply that it’s not precious.
When we place it in the precious category we place it on a pedestal to be admired from below. We are separating ourselves from it and losing the humanity of what we create. If you ask me, the whole point is to connect to our individual and shared humanity. When we make it precious we lose that essential element of the best work.
And yet, I’ve been guilty of this so many dang times. I’ve treated my screenplays like they are some precious work of art that needs to be treated with kid gloves. Or I’ve treated each one as if it’s the last and so the burden I place upon it is monumental. No surprise—that only breeds frustration and disappointment. I have sometimes made the work I admire precious too. I believe I could never do something so sophisticated or interesting.
One of the many fantastic things about aging is the loss of capacity for bullshit. I don’t have the same bandwidth anymore or the energy for the things I used to find so important. My work doesn’t have to change the world. It doesn’t have to stop people in their tracks. It doesn’t have to be the sole representative of who I am. I am so willing (finally) to fall on my face, to embarrass myself and take risks. I want to play. I want to have fun. I want to write what I want to read. I want to enjoy myself.
In that vein, I’m launching a new venture. I am writing a romance novel and I couldn’t be more excited about it! I’m a lifelong fan but I’ve shied away and ignored it because I thought my work was more precious than romance. I laugh at that idea now!! What a snob and frankly, what a boring snob!! I’m ready to have fun, dive into something I enjoy and have a blast while creating!