Into my second week of this writing challenge and… it’s a challenge. So it’s well named.
If you’re new here I’m writing something every day for 30 days and this is day 9. I was going to say that I doubted people would be joining at this late stage but I don’t know that for sure. I’m doing nothing to promote this so I’m unsure why anyone would jump in now (and I’m hopeless regarding my website’s Search Engine Optimization or SEO). No, I see declining viewing figures in the coming days and I think I’m quite happy just chatting to my small band of faithful, or at least very tolerant, friends.
“Hey! Stop it!” (I’m talking to myself here). That’s not how my thinking should be. I’m writing each of these to go public and that’s part of the challenge aspect. I’m not just writing for myself. I’m not supposed to be self-conscious or afraid to exhibit my… oh, whatever; vulnerabilities, weaknesses, strengths(?!)… But, that’s become tougher since I’ve become aware that people I know closely have read one or two of these, and now I can hear my own mind projecting their criticism into my consciousness… grammar… punctuation… What is he trying to say? Is he really that naive? Why is he writing about that? It’s fear, I know it is: Fear of disappointment, fear of embarrassment, fear of so many things.
But I’ll keep my focus on being as honest as I can. If I feel the blocks fitting together into a wall in front of me, well that’s the challenge I need to overcome… that’s one of the challenges I need to overcome (another is simply finding the time – but I partially addressed that earlier in the series – we’re making our Christmas cake today and we have a pot-luck to go to, and, and…). But back to that honesty, not being afraid to reveal the vulnerability.
There’s that wonderful TED talk from 2010 that should be required watching for… well, everyone. I go back to it myself every now and then. It’s Brené Brown’s first talk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ (link here). If you haven’t yet seen it do go and take a look, it’s only 20 mins. If you have seen it, go and watch it again! One of the main things for me is this idea of not ‘covering up’. I have a huge issue with not being perfect, or not knowing all the things I should know by now. With my age, my experience, my abilities, how can I bear to reveal to the world the mass of things I don’t know (yet) and can’t do (yet). It’s better to stay in the background, to ‘hide my light under a bushel’. Better to live in the darkness and only come out when I’m ready.
Here’s something I recognized when I was maybe half my current age, about how I viewed myself in my own mind and how that might still influence what I reveal: I recall this thinking began when I was 8 or 9: I thought I’d feel much more confident and mature when I was my brother’s age (he was 12 at the time) so I shouldn’t be too confident about life yet… but I got to twelve and it didn’t feel as I’d thought it should…. Okay, maybe when I’m 18 I’ll be there. All grown up and knowing how the world works… Hmmm, still that didn’t happen. How about 25…no. 30?… Are we there yet? Very much not so… I’m 61 now and if I ever feel I have become a mature adult in those terms I’ll let you know. I’m certainly not there yet (but I can’t stop myself hoping). Point is – it’s never too early (or too late) to take down the barriers and let the light in. I’m working on it. Seriously, this is part of it, I’m working here…
As an actor it’s essential. I remember a snatch of conversation with a previous wife when I admitted I didn’t enjoy the endless rounds of family parties throughout the year (Americans are often much more family-conscious than Brits… I know, that’s supposed to be a good thing, but I wasn’t used to it. It’s like High School – you insist on these reunions when we Brits can’t wait to escape any reminders of that particular strait-jacket). Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, how I didn’t enjoy family parties. She said, and I’ve never forgotten it: “You’re an actor. Pretend”! I see her point, and I get it. But in my mind the last thing an actor does with respect to his feelings is ‘pretend’. An actor makes up just about every other aspect of the circumstances, but the feelings have to be honest and truthful. I love the beginning of this interview (link here) with Tom Hanks (did you know we’re about the same age?) where he talks about how essential it is for an actor to lose their self-consciousness. Yes, yes and yes. That’s my biggest obstacle.
But give me some space… I’m working on it.
Progress is being made.