The Little Bits

So last time I talked about my failure to use outlines for the majority of my time as a student. Even now that I’ve just discovered at least one way to use them that is productive for me, it still seems I’m missing the bigger picture concerning outlines. At any rate, as I now have the most massive document I’ve ever had to write to date staring me in the face (my dissertation), I find myself needing more guidance than I’ve ever needed before. I need some form of direction with individual parts before I can begin writing even something that will later have to be revised (and revised, and revised more, and revised again). Where, I began to wonder, had I heard this before?

It turns out that one of the methods of actor training (what my undergraduate degree focused on) talks very specifically about breaking down huge scripts into smaller units as a way to more easily and appropriately begin work as an actor. I won’t get into this too much, but it comes from Constantin Stanislavski and his actor training method. Stanislavski wanted actors to have objectives for each moment. He realized those objectives, while large in general, mostly altered from moment to moment as something that the character wanted at any given moment. He wanted actors to break these larger motivations into smaller objectives. This helps the actors and, in turn, makes playing larger roles manageable as you’re concerned (at least at first) with smaller definable objectives rather than amorphous large ones.

Even within my own field, there is evidence of the idea of an outline (even if abstracted by actor training) that I at one time subscribed to and honored. Making things smaller, it seems, can be helpful for almost anything. What can you break down into smaller pieces to do your work better today?