Being an actor is really challenging. Not only do you have to figure out how to make everyone like you while pretending to be another person, you also have to master the delicate art of becoming popular, which, if you’re a normal human from an average background, is fraught with complication.
Popularity Is A Deliberate Skill
If you’re from a terrible background, and you have to cope with all the neurosis and maladjustments accordant to that circumstance, things can feel a little sticky and impossible.
I went to acting school, or I have formal training as an actor, in any case. There was a kind of journey that I went on, as an actor, from the beginning to the end of my acting program.
From The Beginning To The End
At the start, I was naive, full of myself, very talented (and I didn’t know it), and supremely confident in my ability to figure things out and become the very best.
Then life happened, and very poor directors happened, and really damaging classwork happened on top of that, and I started to look about myself and think.
I Didn’t Blame My Teachers, At First
Why, I asked myself, was I such a worse actor than I had been when I started out? After all, studying, and being surrounded by like-minded aspirants and supposed professionals in the art should have, I thought, prepared me to be super awesome as an actor.
I’ve read visual artists saying (writing) that their time in art school, receiving training and instruction, was only valuable insofar as the experience hammered into their brains how completely helpless and useless formal instruction is. Their point, as they were writing, was that art school allowed (or forced) them to the realization that they were their only secure and reliable source for inspiration, teaching, and improvement. That the idiotic waste of art school forced them back into their private, personal spring of talent and inspiration.
That They Had To Become Artists On Their Own
I feel a similar way about acting school. I really don’t enjoy speaking negatively about things, and I resisted taking a realistic view of my training until it was almost over, but at last the damage, both to myself and my classmates, was so pervasive, so inhumane, and so unanimously perverse that I faced the music, as it were, and woke up.
I cut off my heart and my mind from my (genuinely terrible) instructors–and I want to say that when I call them terrible, I don’t only mean that they didn’t teach very well, though most of them didn’t teach well at all. I mean that they lied and cheated and set up long-term contextual scenarios that destroyed young actors, and they did it on purpose because they were bitter people with no inner substance.
I Sound So Cynical, I Think, But They Did
I cut off my heart and my mind from my instructors, and I determined to figure things out for myself. I took all the information and impressions and experiences I had personally gathered over the years I had studied theatre, both before school and during it, and I began to experiment.
The first thing I learned was that my teachers sucked a lot more than I’d ever given them credit for. You see, as I began to dabble in learning for myself, I, of course, required bodies with which to experiment, and I found out, in the first two months of doing so, that I had a genius for teaching and changing the bodies around me.
I Can Release A Person’s Natural Self
I could make people do things on stage that were objectively glorious. I could create visceral emotional interactions on stage, in scene work, that gave anyone–anyone–watching, chills. When my work was going on, the room got very quiet. People turned still inside. They started to think deep things about morality, and God, and shit like that.
I was really, really good.
The second thing I discovered is that all of my instructors but two were actually evil.
You see, when I changed actors’ bodies, and taught real, effective acting (and how I know how to do that is a really long story, not having anything to do with today’s subject), all but two of the mature, supposedly professional acting instructors got strangely irritated.
The two okay ones, the two non-evil teachers, were enormously pleased by my work, and wanted more of it. They wanted me, and my genius, and they wanted everything to change so that this kind of authentic work was happening in all the classrooms, for all the students, and in all the theatre productions involved with the school.
They were on the side of learning, and growth, and right.
Tension Between Established Old People Ensued
The rest of the professors didn’t come out and say anything, exactly, but contextually, they all shifted, and started to cooperate in concert. It was a little like a hunting party, or a creepy conspiracy film.
They didn’t want change, and they didn’t want their established power to go away. That’s when I really knew, deep in my heart, how rotten they were, and how bad each of those people were at creating art.
Angry, Empty People Who No Longer Sought To Create With Authenticity
They were exploiters, and predators. Icky people.
Anyway, back on point. What I found out, as I started to mold and open people’s bodies in acting, and through scene work, I discovered that all the dozens of really horrible actors and immature hobbyists around me (the students) were insanely talented, in terms of potential power and native ability.
I Was Startled By The Depth Of Their Talent
They were blocked, and they were ignorant, and had no idea how to access their own powers of creation, but they were legitimately precious resources, and had nearly endless potential for professional-grade, stunning acting work.
This situation startled me. I’d thought the bad actors were without ability, because their classwork, before I opened them up and made them behave like themselves, was so genuinely awful and insensible. These actors slowly transformed into the kind of exciting talent prospects that would make a film agent salivate, and I started to apply the ramifications of this situation to myself.
I Wanted A Blueprint For Acting Cultivation
I’d started with the idea of learning how to act, and in the process, I learned about creativity in general.
You see, when you set out to create, you are forming a visceral part of your own, true self, your actual energy and spiritual, unseen self, and transforming it into some kind of medium to be seen and consumed by other humans.
You’re harvesting droplets, or buckets, as the case may be, of essence from your deepest unique self, and proffering it to other people, who may or may not choose to take it, taste it, and consume it, if they like it.
Creative Disciplines, And The Emotional Exchange Of Art
This goes across acting, writing, drawing, and singing. And dance, and programming, and math, and every other creative medium. Anything requiring creative energy.
People who last, and who thrive over time in any creative discipline, do so by treating their own lives as a plant, a precious tree. They harvest from themselves, and they feed and tend themselves with an understanding, whether instinctual or deliberate, that they cannot get product without first caring for the productive plant of self.
So, now we come to today’s topic.
Is Your Writing Good Enough?
The real question that you need to be asking yourself is this:
Is my writing clean? Is it mature, fully-developed, and edible?
I’m serious about the edible part, actually. When you consume a piece of artwork, whether through seeing performance, taking in writing, or any other transaction of the senses, your energy structure opens up and you absorb, depending on the quality of the spiritual food, actual aural energy into your innermost being.
You are a living human being. In essence, you are a tree.
And Are Therefore Capable of Producing Leaves, Blossoms, Fruit, Or Seeds
Asking yourself if you can make fruit is not productive, and asking yourself if anyone likes to eat fruit is a similar waste of time.
The real question, and the only productive question, is how well and how deliberately you are caring for your own emotional, physical, and total creative being.
Your writing is good enough, always, impinging on the condition that you are feeding and caring for yourself as an inherently productive tree.
And Now, A Metaphor Or Two
A zebra who has an existential crisis about whether or not he is an elephant is wasting his time.
A heron who sits all day and agonizes over whether or not she was really meant to fly, and if she’s good enough to fly, is similarly going nowhere, as far as getting a satisfactory flight going on.
Action is the answer. You are human, and your soul is designed to create, in whatever medium suits your tastes.
Confused Creatures Who Are Afraid Of Being Something Else
Your writing, by default, is good enough, because you are human, conditional upon you treating yourself as a creative entity and caring for yourself as such.
A heron who agonizes about the value of her flight will never fly, though she can, and should.
A zebra who ponders the moral dilemma of possibly not really being an effective zebra, avoids the natural life and satisfaction zebras presumably get out of being zebras.
My Student Actors
Stop asking yourself if your writing is good enough, and start asking yourself if your writing (which, by default, is good enough by dint of being produced by you, as long as you accept that you are a creative being) is clean enough to be desirable to other humans.
My student actors were all good enough. They all, every single one, it turned out, had enough talent, and enough prospective skill to become legitimately successful, given many years of discipline and targeted self-care and cultivation.
You Are A Fertile Plant, Spiritually
Their acting was good enough. The question for them, and for you, is this: Are you currently engaging in a lifestyle and a method of self-care that will allow you to produce writing (or acting) that is clean enough, mature enough (as in, not plucked off the branch prematurely), and authentic enough (as in, coming from your genuine self, and not a plastic apple) to be edible to and desirable to a hungry person?
That’s the pertinent question, the productive question that leads to better work, stronger writing, and eventual externalized evidence of your creative worth.
As an aside, here is a link to my eerie, romantic book about a mature accountant trapped between death and the afterlife: My Name is Caleb; I am Dead
Asking yourself if your writing is good enough is the wrong question. The right question is whether or not you’re treating yourself in a way that will reliably lead to an edible creative harvest.
As a side note, fertilizing and clearing up weeds around your roots is a deeply satisfying process, and makes for great story fodder, later on.
You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my revised book, Claire is contemplating a sudden journey to the dragon-infested continent of Asoan. Mm. This is me making a shiver of anticipation. There are dragons in My Name is Caleb; I am Dead, but they are colorful manifestations of stars, and not traditional lizard-type creatures at all. They have gorgeous wings, though, and they can talk.