In the recent NYT interview 'Going Rogue', Claire Danes sums up her thoughts on acting with the following paragraph:
“I do get more pleasure from this than almost anything else,” she said, referring to her acting life. “I love words. It is physical. It is intellectual. It’s psychological.” She paused, finished her drink, smiled in her sudden way. “It’s like, I get both to ice skate and fly a trapeze, and who wouldn’t want to do that?”
I would. Or at least, I once did. Over the past year, my relationship to acting has been up and down. Of course, I took up the call for the same reasons Danes described above, for the reasons most actors take up acting. Words. Body. Mind. Psyche. The integration of them all. But it's become quite clear to me this year that the industry of acting is not the same as the craft.
I like acting. As an actor I get to be in the moment with another person and play in the space that exists between the two of us, as well as the entire room. Physically, I get to legitimately express all my pent up emotions and not be jailed for it. Emotionally I get to explore the full range of humanity in the safety of a room. Psychologically, I can examine how words and actions can affect other people, and make them do and say extraordinary things.
I also like writing. While working on an acting job, I realised that acting and writing are indeed very similar: for both there is an initial research period that can often be exciting and fulfilling (indeed, Cate Blanchett talks about research being her favourite part of the process in this interview with Richard Roxburgh for PBS), leading to a unique and intricate inner world. With writing specifically, there is the opportunity to delve deep into a character's psyche, and then bring it up again with words of such potency that they ignite a whole other set of dreams not only in the actor but the whole universe of people.
The difference between the two arts is the expression: one to be a physical world for a single word, the other to be a word and to contain everything in it.
All my life I've had the enjoyment of watching actors, falling in love with their expressions, their bodies, the way they exist in space, their courage, their ability to reveal the very thing I was feeling. To act is to be eternally present. To act is to be the ultimate revelatory being, to expose not only your body but your mind and soul, and to be alive to all its consequences.
Writing is equally as revealing. To write is to give access to the way you think, the way you exist in the world, your history, your background, your mindset, your desires. As an actor and interpreter your body, your habits, your personality and your humanity are revealed. As a writer, save for the body, ultimately you are always revealing your truest self. I also find writing to be the ultimate physical act - in order to access the muse of creativity one only needs to get the body moving. Although it is a solitary act, it is also the act of greatest connection. As an actor, you are always surrounded by your family; as a writer, you are never more connected than with the family of words and the self.
Could I be blessed to be able to do both? We'll have to wait and see...