Monday, April 06 2009
As a member of both SAG and AFTRA who retired from active status in films, radio and televison, I still needed an outlet for the creative energy that pressures some of us, so I renewed my interest in the personal writing I always did. Personal observations and insights that would later become a springboard for professional writing.
At that time I did not realize the cathartic value of this practice, which often produced insight I would not have had otherwise. The old saying about writing out your anger to someone in a letter you never send is an example. You have released the emotion without hurting yourself or anyone else. I also learned the difference between the two expressions -- acting and writing. When acting I applied emotion to someone else's words to arouse feeling in the audience. When writing I had to dig deep inside, reach feeling, and carefully choose my words to arouse emotion in the reader.
I carefully honed this basic desire to express in words through the fiction course offered by The Famous Writer's School, now sadly extinct. It was the leap I needed to have that "something wrong" inner feeling explained and corrected. The Course was excellent, and gave back according to your input and your use of the good direction being offered.
Years later, after eleven years as a senior editor and two published books under another name,* the memories of those early observations are still crystal clear. But what is amazing to me is that they are still as pertinent today.
New York City during World War II was an experience I shall never forget. One that provided endlless observations. Grand Central Station was a treasure-house for this, so I made it my official meeting place because of the drama I could watch while waiting.
Where did that young Corporal come from? What State is now minus one? The ribbons tell that he has experienced the full drama of war, and in what theatre, but not his feelings or his fears. Not the love he left behind, or maybe has since experienced against a backdrop of wailing air-raid sirens and the stale air of bomb shelters.
Or that Navy Lieutenant, immaculate in navy blue and gold. Had he ever really experienced the sea before he boarded a Destroyer or the floating city of an Aircraft Carrier? Before vigilantly patrolling the blacked-out cities of the East Coast in a PC?
Or the look on the face of the tall khaki-clad Sergeant as he holds his baby tight and openly lets his tears wet its soft little cheek.
Or that good-looking Air Force pilot -- alone and trying to casually ignore the emotional goodbyes taking place all around him as he lights a cigarette.
Or that older couple standing a bit apart. What is New York City to them? Home? An adventure, long anticipated and finally enjoyed? Family? Old friends? A tearful goodbye to a son or daughter who is now part of a larger world?
The observations were endless, and so were the stories they promised. Is it so much different now? We are still saying goodbye to husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, good friends.
The drama has not changed. The observations have not changed. Only the time and place.