This message brought to you by America's Next Crazy Model

It is impossible to step out of the box.

You must leap out of the box. You must run headlong out of the box. You must launch yourself so far past the edges of the box into far, far away crazy land that the area between you and the box starts to look normal – even though it's still out of the box.

My favorite acting coach, Michael Shurtleff (if you haven't read his book, Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part
and you are remotely involved in story creation, stop reading my blog and go read his book) used to call this "making a horse's ass of yourself." His theory: if you do something so stupid right off the top that you have no hope of being "right" or "safe" or "what they're looking for" or any of those other timid terms, you leave fear behind. And fear is the death of all things great. And great is what they're looking for.

A spectacular example of this went on display in this week's America's Next Top Model (season 14, episode 5). At the top of the episode, model wannabe Jessica told the camera that she wanted to get "out of the box." Isn't that sweet? They always say that, and they never do. They make some teeny-weeny little step that isn't even visible from my couch and – boom – off the show!

But Jessica went for it. Her nightmarish 2-minute "let's get nekkid" tram trip with prim photographer Nigel Barker was such a jaw-dropping episode of horse's assitude that it ran in the trailers all week. It was honestly a little hard to watch. One clucked and shook one's head and assumed the idiot child was not long for the competition.

Ha. Jessica won the next two challenges in a walk. Fearlessly. She'd already embarrassed herself on network television; what the h*ll else did she have to lose?

I hear you clucking and shaking your head. You don't have to be an idiot in public to be fearless! Ha, again, I say.

Here's an example that even Shurtleff didn't get at the time. Michael was a casting director. He finished off a lecture once by telling us all the things we actors must never, never do in a casting session. The worst example of all was some dingbat "committed" actor who read for a serial killer role and never once broke character. The fool even pulled a knife and leaped across the table to threaten the casting assistant.
Michael didn't need to tell us this was a terribly stupid thing to do. We clucked. We shook our heads in amazement. And then a tiny voice piped up from the back of the room, "Did he get the part?"

You know the answer.

I'm not encouraging anyone to pull a knife during an audition. Please, please don't – especially now that I'm on the other side of that table. But if you hear any timid "rights" and "what they're looking fors" creeping into your vocabulary, get yourself the h*ll out of your box. If that means not listening to me, do that too.

Speaking of the other side of the table, this advice applies to writers. If I'm stuck at any point in my writing I pull out a fresh sheet of paper, scribble "No Idea Too Stupid" at the top and let fly. Aliens. Witches. Time Travel. Evil Twins. Everything is fair game, and bigger is better. Those first few ideas don't have to be good, they have to get you out of the box. Once you're out there floating free – usually about halfway down the page – something wonderful will happen.

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