In acting class today we did a few exercises — a pretend tug-of-war, a pretend roller-coaster ride, and two atmospheric scenes where we were supposed to just radiate a particular feeling without really trying to act. They were fun, but i had a hard time behaving naturally because my mind was constantly filled with questions: i wondered how to invent my character, speculated about what the audience was thinking, and re-evaluated my actions endlessly. But that's why i'm in this class; i want to learn how to fight that intellectually inflicted paralysis.
Mel keeps saying over and over again that you have to get into a creative state of mind. He often describes this by talking about magical or spiritual experiences that people have; gamblers believe they're lucky and churches inspire a sense of awe. I told him that i wasn't sure i was the right type of person because i'm too much of a skeptic and a realist. His reply was that he actually thought i'd be the first person in the class to be hired for a movie production. (Based on historical averages, he expects three or four of us in the class to become famous. Then again, this is the guy that told Adam Sandler to quit acting, so he's not always right.)
I don't know what to make of his praise. It's nice, but i don't understand it. I would love more than anything to make that breakthrough and learn to enter the creative state of mind at will like the best actors do. It's something i've struggled with for some time: stretching beyond purely intellectual solutions and being able to be good at things just because of the right feeling. I don't recall ever feeling like i've "gotten it" in that sense; i usually just work at something until i can solve it with brainpower. For things that aren't all about brainpower, like drawing or painting or dancing or jazz, i typically get off to a fast start using my head, then reach a point where i'm passable but don't progress any further into the real art of the thing.
Alan Karp, the scientist at HP Labs who invited me to give the talk on usability and security last week, also forwarded some nice words from another one of their researchers: "That is the best slide set on security that I've seen in a long time." So I'm basking in it at the moment, but it's also a lot to live up to.