Life as an act

clapper board in green surface
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

I watch gifted actors talk about their work and it almost always amazes me when I can see how little they resemble the characters they portray. Of course, they share looks. But their style, posture, voice, even accent, are usually wildly different to their fictional counterparts. And you can also tell when they are putting on a front, or when they are being their authentic self. Somehow, you can sense it. You can sense a ‘performance’ as it unfolds.

Gifted actors understand how to embody other people’s experience of the world. How well do they inhabit their own world? How much practice do they get? Do you ever wonder, or do you fixate on their celebrity and superficial presentation?

As for ‘the rest of us’ – we are lucky. We get heaps of practice (just) being whoever we are. We enact our lives the way we feel aligns (and at times, doesn’t) with what we value and believe, or perceive to be valuable and believable.

(Meaning, we don’t often have to walk in other people’s shoes, unless it’s a professional requirement to be empathetic. And in that case, our response will always come from the perspective that we have, and we don’t have to take on, or wear, that other person’s experience.)

So, when it comes to your writing, it should not be any different.

When you write, it should be how you see things to be, from your perspective, and with your tone and register, and your turn of phrase. When you read yourself back, you should be able to answer the question “Do I know myself?” with a ‘yes’.

In a recent Feldenkrais training, we asked our trainers how they apply Feldenkrais method in their lives, and maintain their practice. One teacher said that they might go so far as to do a formal ATM (Awareness Through Movement) class, others said they would listen to one while they were pottering, while another said, “I go about my daily life and ask myself – do I know myself? Do I know myself walking to work? Do I know myself when I’m washing the dishes?”

When we have spent ample time understanding ourselves, the writing occurs. It is a natural progression. We can then pour ourselves into our work. Without the percolation and marination of the self, of the examination of knowing oneself, in order to be able to express it, there is no creation possible. (Conversely, some would say losing the concept of a separate self is also another way of accessing this creative channelling, but as we cannot force enlightenment/awakening, it’s a lovely idea, but not one that we can evoke on command. As is with the theme of this article – these are instructions ‘for the rest of us’.)

Think back to the last time you were asked to come up with an idea on the spot. If you don’t know where to look, how to feel it, how to identify a quality expression, it might be that you don’t know yourself well enough to enact a ‘good’ idea.

I imagine that actors do a lot of work on themselves, in order to channel their view of an interpretation of another human being, in a given situation. For ‘the rest of us’, we would do well to do a lot of work on ourselves. We must be expert at channelling our purpose from within, to the outside world.

Do you know yourself? Today? Right now? Where you are sitting/standing? Whatever you are doing?

Go forth and create. And …. action!

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