Acting is a combination of solids and liquids, my friend tells me. The solid is like a jar built from preparing lines, motivations, and backstory. The liquid fills the jar, and it's raw impulse, improvisation, and emotion. Acting without the jar is directionless. Acting without the liquid is rigid and lifeless.
In other words, acting requires a combination of prepared structure and spur-of-the-moment honesty. Other crafts do too... I'm thinking about woodworking, painting, sculpting, directing, and writing. I'm coming to learn the extent to which writing is a craft of solids and liquids; the solid scaffolding is act structure, character objective, and setting. The liquid is where the heart is; it's about listening to the characters, playing with words, and finding a natural fluidity. A writer can only prepare so much...
And doesn't this metaphor extend beyond "craft"? Personalities are both solid and liquid because people can shape their behavior intentionally, but they're also impulsive and reactive. I am a firm believer that people can change their habitual behavior, and can therefore change elements of their personalities. Negative people can choose to focus more on the positive. If that focus becomes habitual, they become optimists. This is an example of a "solid" structural change because it requires intention and a plan: I plan to focus more on the good stuff. This is the jar. This is what behavior we prepare and decide to adopt. The liquid is behavior that's natural to us-- the stuff we don't decide to adopt. I didn't decide to chew toothpicks to bits daily, but I find the shreds in my pant pockets. It's my god given tick, and I don't even have to think about it! Nice.
Back it up one more time... Life is solid and liquid. Every life has structural limitations: lifespans, birthdays, beginnings, middles, ends, and directions. The limitations are filled with each individual's flavor and impulses and accidents and whims.
Plan but leave room for wandering. That's a practice I'd like to master.