As one who always wanted to sleep late I find myself rising before the sunshine these days, much to my puzzlement. And so at 6:45 of a Friday morning I find myself confronted by your amazing letter. I say amazing because I find most of it pertinent, important, insightful and needing to be addressed.
Acting is an interpretive art form. And so I suppose that is my habit. Without realizing it, or gaining any personal perspective about it, I seem to need the ideas of others to unlatch my own thinking. I have about 110 pages of quotations from various sources, single spaced, small font. I still collect them.
Another habit I have is to be continually overcoming limitations. One view of retirement is that I am like a bush the world has finally stopped pruning. But since the world doesn't cut me back any more I have to do it myself. It's a bad habit of creating impassible situations for myself and then fighting my way out of them. There is an ancient reason for that. From an early age until I established myself in show business I was continually made to feel unimportant, by family and teachers. When I emerged enough from that shell to look around I realized I was unimportant in the eyes of others because I was different. I didn't fit in my family and I was a poor student because I didn't conform to the processes some really poor teachers wanted me to. And frankly I wasn't much interested in getting an education. That all changed one day. Then I went about sopping up the wisdom of the ages. I still do that. Which is why I have so many quotations on my desk.
What really struck me about your letter was the idea of emerging as a writer without the need to interpret the words of others. It relates back to having been an actor, of course, but also to the misleading influence that whatever I had to say wasn't important. I developed a blindness to any sort of encouragement or praise. I felt that people were just being nice if they said they appreciated and approved of what I did. That was a self imposed limitation as well.
I knew Norman Mailer, had frequent discussions with him and was invited to his home. The public Mailer was a belligerent, He seemed to be always looking for a fight. But the private Mailer was different. He enjoyed and approved of my acting and he told me so. Why didn't I believe him?
I will take to heart what you have written. My mentor and teacher, Edward, once said that to be an actor one has to have poetry in his heart. I have never considered myself a poet, but I have felt that Vagabond Journeys needs to be reorganized and freed up in some significant way. In fact, I was pondering that this morning even before I read your letter.
The girl who is sailing her boat solo through the ocean got over 200 comments on Wednesday. I got 6. No doubt there is a lesson to be learned there. Though I am known as a generous person and one who will tax himself to the limit to accomplish something he really wants to do, I am also known as one who peers out from his hibernating cave to interpret what he sees. Not a coward, just cautious.
I don't know if I will ever be any different or even if I can be, old dogs and new tricks, you know. But I'm certainly going to keep typing for as long as I can and maybe the writer will emerge someday.