Occasionally while browsing publishing blogs, I come across a somewhat disgruntled writer who feels they need to make agents and editors “see” what they’re missing. All the agents and editors and directors and producers out there are just evil money-making (enter swear-word(s)) who don’t give a crap about the beautiful, heartfelt art in the world.
Once upon a college day, a student got really angry with my college acting professor for not recognizing said student’s theatrical genius.
“I was crying! Real tears!” He exclaimed. “I don’t need any of this bull(full expression redacted)! I was actually feeling the feelings!” This was all done very well, in classic drama-student style, but the acting professor just looked at this tear filled student, a wry smile on his otherwise stony face, and said, “That’s great that you felt all that. I didn’t feel a thing.”
And here is where I learned the whole point of putting our art out in the world. Nobody (outside of your mother, sister, best friend,) gives a hoot what you feel if they can’t feel it too. When the audience watches you act or dance, listens to you sing, looks at your painting, or reads your story, the only feelings they can recognize and care about are their own.
This is not to say that feeling passion for our art doesn’t matter. Absolutely it does. No beautiful art every comes out of pure calculation, but we also need to realize that we are not talking to ourselves; we’re trying to communicate to someone, even if it’s just one person. We desire our audience to understand what we feel and know.
We need a heart and a brain. Without a heart, the brain would not work. Without a brain, what would be the point of a heart?
I have read some stories with amazing form, pacing, technique, everything in its place, but no heart. No guts. I felt nothing. But I have also read stories that are bags of emotional vomit spilled out all over the page and I’m left trying to decipher what they ate. I felt nothing. I don’t like dry meat and I don’t like vomit. Although if I have to make a choice I might well prefer dry meat to vomit.
Are there some people in the world who simply have a God-given talent for communicating their art that effectively speaks to millions? Sure, maybe. I can think of some amazing actors, writers, painters, etc., that seemingly pull their inspiring art from the heavens. It would seem they don’t have to think about it, never consciously decide the best way to present their ideas. It just comes. I’m skeptical. No one can say for certain what all those geniuses went through to get where they are. Please refer back to my post about 10,000 hours of practice.
Not surprisingly, this acting student quit school. Was his genius ever recognized? I don’t know. He may have figured out a few things and made his way in the world. He might still just be feeling all his feelings.
Heart and passionate feelings in our work are necessary, no doubt, but it takes more than that. It takes everything. Heart. Brain. Guts. Sweat, blood and tears. If I have something really important to say, I will focus on figuring out the best way to say it. A way that will not only make me feel, but make everyone else feel it too. Because all I ever want someone to say when they listen to me is, I get it. I understand. Otherwise, why are we talking?
So now I turn to you. Where do you feel craft and artistic passion meet? How do you keep from letting one take over the other?