The night before last I was watching an old episode of Doc Martin, a British series that Rolly and I really love, when I was struck by the apparent lack of self consciousness of one of the actors— Ian McNeice, who plays Bert Large, the plumber/restaurant owner. Bert is sitting in Doc’s office, on one of the chairs, in only a shirt and underpants— trousers apparently around his ankles. He is showing the doctor a mole on his upper inner thigh. The actor is a rotund fellow in every way, his belly, and even his thighs are very very fat and it is in a rather unflattering position that he, as Bert, is revealed to the viewing audience. The scene is scripted flawlessly. The middle-aged plumber, likely grown immune to the embarrassment of showing too much skin after years of inadvertent backside exposure, seems so totally lacking in body awareness that he continues his conversation pantless long after the mole is examined. Finally the Doc tells him abruptly and rather derisively to pull his pants back up. It instantly made me think that for the actor to reveal so much of himself, in order to be faithful to the creative work he was doing, took great sacrifice. Imagine being an actor so devoted to your craft that you would risk personal derision, or even ridicule of your person, in order to perform at your personal best. McNeice obviously believed enough in the integrity of his work to do the scene regardless of what anyone would think!
To be so self revealing in our creative endeavours is an anxiety causing thing. As a writer this is something that I am very much aware of. To write at my best I need to be real. To be real means to not hide myself or my flaws. If the barriers of unnecessary reservedness and self doubt have to be dropped then drop them I must, but believe you me, these drawers of mine will never be dropped for any amount of creative integrity! Those other drawers, the warped ones in my desk that are over-stuffed with all sorts of personal stuff? Well, that’s another story!