Many years ago, I was in the world’s worst acting class.
Its badness was made possible by its goodness. Much like a relationship where you’re slowly gaslighted into madness until a gigantic Acme mallet (or Joseph Cotten) shows up to snap you out of it, about 90% of what went down was fine – excellent, even.
Which is precisely why the remaining 10% was so dangerous: plenty of inert matter to make the poison go down smoothly.
* * * * *
Do you think about money often? I think about it quite a bit, just before I shove the thoughts from my head in a holy panic.
My lifelong attitude toward money mimics my childhood attitude toward adulthood: Lots of power; too much scary. RUN! The thing is, of course, you really can’t avoid either. Or at some point, you just realize that avoiding them is more exhausting than giving in. And when you do finally settle into one or the other (or both) a bit – when you start handling your money with
respect or learning to delay gratification in favor of prudence and responsibility – you see that it’s not really dollars or years that you’re scared of; they’re just dollars and years.
You’re scared of that part of you that you think is incompetent. Or vain. Or maybe flat-out evil, you devil, you.
You’re scared that the small, not-so-good part of you will override the big, pretty-okay part of you and ruin everything. That you will be left alone, reviled and ridiculed for the incompetent/vain/flat-out-evil devil you are. That you will die.
It doesn’t matter that it won’t, you won’t, and you probably won’t for a long, long time. That 10% of you puts on a really convincing show.
* * * * *
One thing I learned in that horrible-wonderful acting class was that a well-drawn character wants something more than anything else, and over the course of a well-played scene, will use every trick in her personal playbook to get it. (We call the wants “intentions” and the tricks used to get it “tactics.” Now you can impress your actor friends with your inside knowledge.)
Here’s the conundrum – the strongest want is nothing without an equally strong obstacle in the way of that want: Al Pacino thwarting Robert DeNiro in Heat; the survivors racing against the water in The Poseidon Adventure; Ray Milland battling himself in The Lost Weekend. It can exist without or within, but if you take away the immovable object, the unstoppable force whizzes frictionless through nothingness, fizzling out somewhere far, far past our interest in watching it. The tension between the two is what fuels the creativity of the characters and heightens the suspense.
More tension, better show.
No tension, no show.
* * * * *
I’m working on a huge (HUGE) project for my upcoming birthday this September. It’s the kind of project that could be astonishing and life-changing and crazy, crazy fun if it comes together – not just for me, but potentially for a lot of other people, you included. And if it falls apart, of course, it is one of those things that will make me – and only me – look stupid. The flavor of fail I am more afraid of than anything.
Here’s the hilarious (and predictable) part: as the deadline for each part of the project has approached, I’ve balked. You’re coming off of a five-month Crohn’s flare. You need to focus on your business. You’ll have to call in every favor you have and rack up debt in the favor bank, to boot. The scale is ridiculous. The time frame is insane.