I feel privileged to be a creative person.
Creativity fuels me in everything that I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love to draw, I love to write, to doodle on shopping lists, make origami out of receipts, belt out ‘Les Mis’ tracks in the shower, monologue Shakespeare in the car, read books for hours, make scrapbooks, write letters… Sometimes I feel so lost in life and the only thing that grounds me is being creative and making something out of nothing.
I spent today in a theatre workshop – it was a recall audition for a play which I am trying out for. I haven’t done any theatre myself in over a year and was scared to return after a while away but it felt like going home (what a cliche!) and I came away buzzing – feeling alive – for the first time in a while. I have acted in lots of plays, mainly at school – I love being on stage.
A good friend recently asked me how I am so comfortable on stage, sometimes in front of hundreds of people, and yet so full of anxiety in other social situations. The answer was simple and came to me quickly: It isn’t me; it’s a character. I’m playing. I’m pretending. I’m acting.
There are so many incredible actors that suffer from anxiety. Johnny Depp has been in nearly 50 films and yet has talked of his ‘crippling’ anxiety and how he has suffered from panic attacks for years. I think the correlation between acting and anxiety is quite a clear one because acting allows you to escape yourself, to be shamelessly free and experimental.
I get lost in a character and dedicate myself fully to any part that I play, I make myself pick the character apart and remain fully committed and immersed throughout the production. It is a massive release to be someone else and to escape my mind, even if just for a short while.
You could say that this is me running away from my anxiety and maybe it is, but so what? Is that really so bad? Of course I am still me no matter how much I pretend to be someone else but being someone else and escaping myself is an excuse to kid myself that I’m ‘normal’ – whatever that means.
Creative people often have complex minds. My mind latches onto things and won’t let go; this is great for dedicating myself to a character in a play, but not so great when my mind is trying to tell me that no matter how many layers of concealer I put on, that spot will still be the first thing that anyone will see today, and they will be absolutely disgusted.
Recently, when I’ve come across situations that make me anxious, I will pretend that I’m playing a part. This is all well and good to get me through a presentation at work, or a trip to the shops to buy a loaf of bread, but with all this acting, sometimes I lose myself. I would hope that one day, I am happy with just being me, leaving the acting on stage.
Theatre is an amazing thing; it’s an escape for the audience and the actor.
Image: RSC Stratford-upon-Avon