Dearest Column Dwellers,
I think I owe you an explanation. It has come to my attention and undoubtedly yours, that I have become quite an unreliable columnist. Remember the good old days of 2009 when I was Captain Punctual? Every Tuesday morning, like clockwork, the columns would appear on Aussietheatre.com. It was one thing you could rely on in life. Death, taxes and Coffee with Kate on a Tuesday morning.
This year started much the same way — weekly espresso-related ramblings with Kate. Then they started to become less regular. And I feel that I should tell you why.
Just kidding. Like that’s going to happen anytime in the next 750 years. No no, I’m definitely too young to start popping out small confused versions of myself (although I did find a grey hair the other day but I’d prefer to never speak of that again). No, the real reason I haven’t been churning out the columns is that I received some criticism about my writing. I know, who cares? What does it matter when there is poverty and war and the planet is falling apart? But it still hurt. It stung. And it made me do the thing so many of us do when we get criticised – shut down.
You see, writing has afforded me a creative freedom I haven’t felt as a performer in a long time. I withdrew as a performer after one too many knocks and it’s something I continue to work on. Up until now, writing has been a safe space. But now there’s a wound. And that sucks.
Of course it’s inevitable. As artists we put ourselves on the line for judgement and critique every day. I can hear everyone not in the arts saying “There are people dying in the world you self-involved actor. Stop complaining and get a job!” But when your creativity is your profession, how do you just get over it? People often forget to consider the courage it takes to make a piece of work and the fragility of the creating force itself. A frivolous remark or a subjective appraisal can be arrows to the heart of an artist. It can block us for years. We all carry the wounds of a thoughtless teacher or an angry parent or an insecure colleague. People are entitled to their opinions of course, but how do you not let the words of others squash your creative instincts?
I’ve spent a long time searching for the bandaids. I’ve had enough alternative therapies to fund half of Newtown. I’ve had my chakras realigned, tarot cards read and so much acupuncture I probably don’t float anymore. I’ve studied my North nodes (an astrological term, not a glandular condition), consulted angel cards and meditated until I became so calm I almost developed narcolepsy. And I don’t want a medal, it’s been my own way of healing. Much of it has been enormously beneficial, but this particular experience is different. It has made me observe my habitual pattern of retreating and realise that the only real remedy is to get back on the horse.
When you have a car accident, you have to get back in the car. When your heart breaks, you have to love again before the fear of being hurt becomes too great. I think it’s the same with creativity. We just have to keep creating.
This column sounds so introspective. And you know what? It is. And that’s OK. Because that was the criticism I received. And that is the damn point of being an artist. We explore the very depths of ourselves so that we can access the very depths of a character and tell great stories; stories that are passed on to new generations to inspire hope and show us how to live.
I want to finish with a story about my dear friend Tyran Parke. As we all know he was set to direct Next to Normal at the Capitol Theatre later this year. Out of the blue, it was cancelled. He retreated, mourning the loss of the project as anyone would. When I saw him on the weekend, a few weeks after the news, I asked him what he was going to do for the rest of the year now that he had all this time. “What time?” he replied, and proceeded to tell me about the two Shakespeare plays he’s just been cast in, the shows he’s directing, the workshops he’s teaching and the writing course he’s just enrolled in. It was a wonderful mirror to my own experience and a reminder that it’s not necessarily talent that triumphs in the end, but courage.