Many of us aren’t just actors. We explore artistically as writers, directors, painters, photographers…the list is endless. In this series of guest posts, we’ve invited librarian, actor, spoken word writer and performer, Varshini, to pen her thoughts on her writing journey.
As an actor, Varshini has numerous stage and film credits to her name, including True Love, a feature film directed by S Viknesh which was selected for the Queens World Film Festival in 2013, Neil Simon’s play The Star Spangled Girl, Tan Suet Lee’s play A Second Life, Hum Theatre’s Nagamandala and Seventy Shades of Play by the Stageclub Singapore. Her commercial credits include Julie’s Biscuits’ “The Best of You” advertorial campaign across TV, cinema and billboard. She is currently performing in Phenix Arts’ The Immortal Bard, a showcase of Shakespeare’s famous works being shown across the libraries in Singapore. She will also be presenting her poems as part of Gnossem Nights in end April. One of her poems will be published by Coffee Stained Press in their first poetry anthology, Words: Lost and Found.
It’s almost midnight on a Sunday and I can’t sleep. A few minutes ago, I was watching cute animal videos and laughing to myself. I knew exactly what I was doing – I was putting off these very blog posts that I was supposed to write.
That was pretty much how I started with spoken word and writing. I know, it doesn’t make any sense, but bear with me as I try to bare it all.
Couple of years back, I was introduced to the world of spoken word performances. Sitting in a small but cosy, dark room, with just enough light for the bartenders and servers to see your face, take your orders and cater to you. Little did I expect the feast I would be served that night.
I was dragged into an ocean of pounding hearts, rippling passionately like waves rushing to the shore. Poet after poet walked onto the stage and courageously exposed their souls, their trials and tribulations. Simultaneously they invited us, the audience, to be part of their experience – to sense what their souls were going through or had gone through. It was both magical and painful. As they left a little bit of their souls and experiences on that stage, I fell in love a little bit with each of one them.
Thoughts floated in my head like debris in the ocean of talent I had witnessed. Perhaps I too could share, perhaps I too had something worth speaking about, perhaps I too could weave words into intricate webs. But debris as they were, I waved those thoughts goodbye and let the tides carry them away.
It wasn’t until I was sitting face-to-face on a hospital bed with my maternal aunt, who was dying from cancer, and hearing her speak of going to Arab street to get evil-eye bracelets like the ones taking up half my wrist (knowing full well it wasn’t going to happen), that I realised how much of a coward I was being. There she was, feeble in being, sporting skin and bones, but her bravery knew no boundaries. Her attempt at normalcy when nothing about that situation warranted normalcy deserved a standing ovation. She knew what was coming and had accepted it. She smiled and existed. It hit me, it really hit me then how truly short life was. If I didn’t try now, I might never find the voice within me.
It was in Blu-Jaz, in the area I collectively term as Arab Street, where I dedicated my first poem in memory of my aunt. As sad a situation as that was, her passing jolted a part of my creative being into existence. I wanted to learn how to be enough, for myself. I wanted to create what I felt passionate about.
I learned what I was wrong about. I had feared writing, feared sharing, feared rejection. I had told myself I was not good enough, not creative enough, not smart enough, not Enough. I had an obsession with achieving perfection in my work and that was a tough habit to let go of. It took me a while before I realised that most things in life, like us, human beings, are not meant to be perfect. They are meant to be complex, intense, messy, raw. And with everything combined, ecstatically and intoxicatingly beautiful and soul-consuming.
I was wrong about the need to be perfect. I didn’t need to create beauty. Beauty already existed in the raw words, in the truthfulness of the words, in my truth. I had nothing more to do than to be true.
Harper Lee said, “Write what you know, and write truthfully”.
That is what I am trying to achieve in my writing. For the spoken word, for the performance, for myself, for you, for this blog. Truthfully yours. I may not have chosen words you may have chosen, I may not have a vocabulary as vast as yours, or a flair as graceful. All I have is the truth, my truth, which I now present to you.
As writers, creators, performers and actors, our duty is to present the truth as accurately as possible. We are in the business of bringing the truth to light, in every single moment on stage as we breathe life into the written word. Write, speak, act truthfully. The rest will gently fall into place with ease and grace, I promise.
And if it doesn’t, you can always, always try again because you have what it takes within you, you are Enough.