Lessons from Shakespeare: Write a Script that Lasts

Posted on: Oct 10, 2013

Categories: Motivation

William ShakespeareMy focus of the month is on staying current, and in this world where Apple puts a new iPhone on the market every few months and 40 million Instagram photos are posted online every day, it’s challenging to stay up-to-date. I’ve often emphasized how important it is to stop re-reading old scripts and to write new ones, and part of that is just taking inventory and updating your lines based on whatever chapter you are currently writing.

Shakespeare was the greatest playwright of all time, and even though he wrote his scripts in the 16th century, they’re still performed on stages around the world. The words and phrases he invented, such as “all of a sudden” and “too much of a good thing” are commonly used today. So why hasn’t his work become old-fashioned, outdated, and irrelevant?

The answer is that Shakespeare’s dramas are adaptable.

How many different time periods and locations have Shakespeare’s plays been set in? If you want to write a new script that you can stick to, don’t worry about making every line perfect — focus on making it adaptable. We’re all living in a live theatre — your life isn’t a movie. In a movie, the director can yell “Cut!” and re-shoot the scene, but if you mess up a line in live theatre, you’re only option is to keep going. Don’t write your lines in pen, but instead be prepared to make changes, because once you’re on stage, anything can happen. Part of staying relevant is a willingness to adapt, and that’s a willingness you’re going to need if you’re going to write a masterpiece.

From my years of miming, I learned how important it is to be able to read your audience — to feel the way those around you are reacting to you based on their energy and physical feedback. This skill has helped me at many speaking appearances as well, and as I step before different audiences, I adapt my script. Some phrases that pump up a college crowd won’t fly in the corporate world, so even though the through line remains the same, I customize my speech according to each and every audience that I’m in front of.

The best scripts are the ones that have undergone multiple rounds of editing. If you’re writing a new script, don’t treat it like the final draft. Be prepared to make adjustments, to adapt to new settings, and you’ll have no problem staying current.

Here’s a tip to tell if you’re writing the perfect script that doesn’t need any rewriting: If you’re still breathing, you haven’t. Enjoy rewriting next chapter and all of the opportunities to Live the Dream.

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