The Biggest Problem With Memorizing, And How You Can Fix It
Updated: May 17
Have you ever tried to memorize a script that just won't "stick?" If so, you'll know that it's difficult because every time you get to that spot where you always mess up, you immediately flash back to the page desperately trying to remember the text, which then pulls you out of the scene. So what do you do? Many people claim success by using different memorization techniques. But there is one big thing you should know before you try to implement any academic techniques. This post will tell you what you need to know to make sure you get those hard-to-reach scripts in your body in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Think back to your days of playing video games (like... yesterday, for some of you.) When you reach a new boss or a new challenge in your game, do you instantly go to the internet or go to your book of cheat codes and look up the answer to be able to beat the game faster?
Hell no! It's not rewarding and there's no sense of mastery.
Instead, when you come to a new challenge, you try the most obvious thing. When that fails, you try plan B and C. When those fail, you look all around you and see what you missed. Maybe there's a pattern. Maybe there was a clue earlier in the level. Maybe you need to do something in a certain sequence.
You play (and fail) 50 times in a row and get frustrated and turn the game off and come back to it later with a fresh perspective. You fail 49 more times and only then do you turn to the internet and search for the specific solution you need.
And when you get that solution, after exploring every. other. possibility... does your brain go "AHA!" And now you can beat the level and move on.
My friend, memorizing your script is the exact same process.
Each time you get to a tricky spot and pick that script up to find the words, you are only giving yourself the solution. It's a temporary win, it's a shallow success, and it may mean you'll beat the game faster but you certainly won't be a master.
Instead, put the script down and don't return to it. For any reason! It's the solution! You don't need it at this point. (We'll return to it later, but put it away for now.)
You've read the scene enough times to understand it. You're up on your feet. You're exploring everything in your own words and you're finding all of those patterns, those sequences, those hidden easter eggs.
Only after you've exhausted all of your resources should you return to the script to receive that "AHA!" moment. Because then, all of the text contains those cheat codes. Every word and punctuation mark has the possibility to be an "AHA!" moment if it is somehow different than how you were exploring without the script.
Forget about memorizing. You need to understand the script. And when those tricky spots keep popping up, the answer is not on the page. It's in your body and in your own words.
Jordan Woods-Robinson is an Actor and Head Honcho at Book From Tape Acting Studios in Orlando, FL. He challenges his actors to harness impulse as a tool, to trust their guts, to work on their feet, to break rules, and, overall, to make bold choices that make a lasting impression through tape. Email Jordan