Where’s My Mind?

I’ve written a lot about critical thinking in the last few blog posts, partially because I believe it’s something that’s currently lacking to a great degree in our culture and particularly in the arts. In future blog posts, I’ll expand on this and explore the interplay of imagination and rational thinking.

As I have said previously, almost anyone could stand on the stage and “feel”.  But could you do it again? You and I could scream our lungs out at each other. “Wow! I really felt that!” we might say afterwards, licking our chops like cats. But would it serve the play, be interesting and appropriate, or would it just be emotional masturbation? And again, could either of us do that again and again without very rapidly wrecking our voices?

In the end, who really cares if you “felt” it or not? The real test is: Were you able to convey across the footlights the impression that the character was feeling whatever emotion of the moment, by whatever path you took to get there?

Simple emotional indulgence is not only boring to watch, it’s a cheat. You might start by getting “feelings” but can you justify them after the fact?

One of the absolutely dullest, most wretched performances of Hamlet — or anything else, for that matter!  — I have ever seen was by an actor who rolled around and beat his fists on the floor and screamed. I suspect he was feeling a whole lot of things but, while he was busy, busy, busy with all that, the narrative arc and the pace of the entire play flew out the window.  Schoolgirls swooned.  The rest of the company wanted to murder him.  The critics did.

MINDStillSmallVoicexcfThere has to be a balance between emotions and intellect. In all cases, we must always try to get our egos out of the way.

There are also times when we need to just plain get our rational minds out of the way and pay attention to our instincts.

It is our minds, tempered badly by our fears, that are the first things to get in the way of our instincts. We worry that we’re not smart enough or that we will be wrong, so all of our focus goes to that and we can’t even get started. Getting started is exactly the point, though, at which we need to let our minds sit at the feet of the still small voice within us and listen.

There is a time and a place for that and unless we start there we will never be able to move to the next step, which is critical thinking. This is how we develop technique.

The following questions are for all of us, whether we’re in the “business” of the arts or otherwise.  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.

Which do you pay more attention to:  your mind or your emotions?
Is one of these more a hindrance or a help than the other in your creative process?

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12 thoughts on “Where’s My Mind?”

  1. You’re absolutely on target.

    As a performer I usually pay more attention to my emotions. I know because of that I can tend to be too flamboyant in my work. I’d say my biggest drawback is in turning in well crafted disciplined performances. I’m not unprofessional and always give my best but in a long run it gets harder for me to find energy and put over a performance that’s on the mark.

    I rely alot on a director and stage manager to keep me in bounds on the technical aspects. It’s different on film because I usually get more than a take or two and the director can tell me which way to adjust my energy.

  2. I’m a dancer. I can hear music and be moved by it but if I don’t get the technical things down first I’m sunk.

    Any choreographers out there who’ll share about where they start?

  3. Awesome discussion Bill. I’m a photographer. Very visual. very technical. I definitely rely a lot on the rational part of my brain – spatial sense, evaluating color and light. But I’m also looking at action and story. Always thinking how to tell it. Sometimes it’s a hunch what will make a good shot but that’s rooted in years of doing this and learning from mistakes. Also, I don’t do contract work so I only shoot what I like. So I guess that’s where I start. With a viseral response to something that catches my eye. Sometimes you just gotta go with it.

    1. MsJaniceT … Yep. I do make my living and I’m lucky too. But I’ve paid my dues. Over 30 years as a photographer. I started freelance & 5ook whatever I coudl get. Now I shoot what pleases me. been there done that other. Most of it sells.

  4. Hi, everybody. This is great discussion! It’s the most we’ve ever had so far! Thanks and keep it coming!

    Please remember that I moderate all comments, so there may be a short delay between when you post a comment and when it becomes visible. I take them as the system notifies me. I may have gotten one or two out of order but it looks like that hasn’t really messed up the thread.


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