The Prisoner of Art

A few years ago, while discussing a script for a play we were staging, our lead actor and head stage manager, who are both close and wonderful friends of mine, had described to me how they coped with past heartbreaks, sorrow, and just feelings in general –

First, take each emotion, take the memory, take the person, place them in an envelope. Seal it and label it.

Secondly, place that envelope in a chest. Wrap that chest with chains to seal it shut and put a lock on it.

Third, dig a hole deep enough to reach the earth’s core. Then, take the chest full of feelings and bury it.

Feelings gone. Pain gone. Live life.

However, I had a different approach to filing emotions.

Simply don’t file them.

I know, it sounds masochistic. But it works for me. I’ve realised early on that having my feelings just laying around makes it a lot easier for me to pick them up, use them whenever. That does not however mean that I randomly share it with anyone. I’m an extremely private person. My friends barely even know what I do.

No wonder they talk about artists being moody folks. I didn’t understand it then. I certainly do now more than ever. Because you have to constantly immerse yourself in the arts and the more you do it, it gives you the power to control these emotions whenever you need them.

You’ll recognize artists whenever they’re in that emotion. Regular people call it ‘being in a mood’.

We’d talk about how masochistic theatre fellas are. If you are one, don’t deny this, you crave that pain. A good play is your drug.

That’s how you get nostalgic post production. You miss the thrill, the adrenaline, the rush of the performance. You crave the feeling of just being another human but yourself, living the life of someone you’ll never be, existing in a world mimicking reality and the negative in it yet still be able to cop out whenever. Or at least after the show is over and the curtains come down, the stage lights dim and the house lights come on.

Some new actors have a difficult time portraying characters because they fear they’ll look stupid. The only time you’ll look stupid is if you don’t do your job properly. Here’s an advice, don’t use past emotions when you act. I know it sounds contradictory to what I was saying earlier on about not filing away emotions. That’s not the point I’m trying to make for actors.

The point of not using past experiences for actors is to let you create. Create for your character. The idea has come from your playwright. The actor needs to bring that to life. You’ve lived through those emotions and the point of being an artist is to create something new. Do that. Be someone else.

But writing is different in some way. At least for me. Where do I get my inspiration to write? Everywhere. Everyone. Anything. The world is your teacher. Ezra Bayda tells you to pay attention to everything. Because once you do, the world becomes your teacher. Learn from it.

Sometimes, words escape me. I cannot find words true enough to encompass everything I want to say and let it transcend everything I feel. It is frustrating beyond belief. But I crave to write. And sometimes I scribble random words or phrases. Sometimes they become haiku’s and sometimes remain as just words. Nevertheless, I read back on that one word or phrase and I still vividly recognize the story behind it.

But it’s this craving to feel that has led me to become a prisoner of the arts. Sometimes I write about sex, I write about a man falling in love or out of love for a woman he’s fallen for for many years. I create without experiencing any of it.

Even so, I write from my past. For a boy who unintentionally broke my heart. For a friend who embedded herself so deep in my bones just because she was running out of time. For a stranger I shared an intimate moment with. For a loved one who has broken a promise by being gone forever. I write to cut down on all the feelings I have. I call it the feelings diet. Because I feel too much and I feel too little. There is no in between. Whenever it gets too much, I just need to unload some.

In everything I write, I hope that one person who inspired it gets to read it and I hope they know it’s about them. I unload feelings onto cyber ink and paper.

It’s a way to ask.

Sometimes, I get my answer. More often I don’t.

Every time I do this, I cut myself raw. I bleed and I feel and that’s how I ensure myself that I’m still alive, albeit being a prisoner of the arts.


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