Hitting the ground running.

Creative blocks feel the same regardless of the medium.  Although I have come to regard blocks as a necessary part of the creative process, the amount of frustration that I feel when one crops-up, has not gotten the slightest bit easier to handle over the years.  Blocks are always accompanied by a mild strain of amnesia.  When you’ve found yourself hitting a wall, it feels as if this paralysis of imagination and creative thought is a completely new experience. And, as the terror sets in, you can’t imagine how you will get past it.  The miraculous unflinching truth is . . . you always do get past it.  I’ve gotten past every creative block I’ve ever had one way or another.  In short . . . here is my most recent one and the tale of how I got past it.

It reared its ugly head a few weeks ago when rehearsing Nina in Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull.’  The rehearsal process was quick and it wasn’t long before we were on our feet.  And that’s when it happened: right away, at my entrance, the first time Nina comes on to the stage.  When a character first appears on stage it’s an extremely important moment.  The audience will size them up in lightning speed, the same way we decide what we think about a person within ten seconds of meeting them in real life.  And so, an entrance on stage is crucial in the telling of the story.  Every nuance has to be accounted for; the pace with which they walk, run, crawl on to the stage; how long it takes for them to speak; whether they address people directly, or whether they stand “unnoticed” in the world of the play for some time.  Everything is important.

For those of you who don’t know Nina . . . she is a ball of energy.  She runs onto the stage in hysterics for fear that she will miss a play that she is meant to be acting in, on a night that she thinks will change her life forever.   It’s like if Cinderella actually did miss the ball, or Annie never did meet Daddy Warbucks, or Harry Potter never found the last horcrux.  (Sorry strange examples . . . the blog- block-battle continues . . . moving on.)  When Nina enters, in the span of only a few seconds, she runs the gamut of emotions; from terror to joy; from crying to laughing.  As an actor the job that I faced in making my entrance as Nina in Act One was, likewise, both exciting and terrifying.  Through the course of working on Her I had various ways and methods of getting to that level of high-stakes that the role demands.  Sometimes it worked beautifully and sometimes it was  . . . well . . . a total block.  But the whole time that I worked on the play, what really stuck with me was what my Director said (and it was this that eventually got me past this particular creative block).

The first time I attempted the entrance in Act One it was pushed, stale, and ungrounded.  The Director watched me, and then paused.  He thought a moment and then simply said this:  “You, the actor, have to come in hitting the ground running.”  That was it.  That was all he said.  And it was all I needed to hear.

When I felt blocked I thought of this and used it as a kind of mantra for myself.  What it means to me is this:  JUST GO FOR IT.  Most of our blocks come from a fear of getting it wrong or not being “good.”  But 99.99% of the time if you just go for it and trust yourself, it will be good, maybe even brilliant.  I’ve been musing over this idea/imagery of hitting the ground running and have been applying it to not just all my creative endeavors since, but almost everything, and it has had a profoundly positive effect on my life.  When I went for a cite-reading audition last week I applied it.  I made a strong choice and I went for it.  It was one of my best auditions yet.  I now try to bring in a burst of energy and enthusiasm to everything I do; auditions, introducing myself to a casting agent, even ordering a cup of coffee at a café: NO HESITATION.  When you hit the ground running you are showing up 110%.  You are not afraid or apologetic, and are ready to face any blocks that crop up and slow you down along the way.  If you’re at a business meeting, an audition, at the gym, cleaning your apt, anywhere doing anything . . . try hitting the ground running and see if things suddenly start seeming just a little bit easier.  Blog-block? … Case in point!