I've been acting and singing professionally for a little over 28 years (I'll be celebrating my 30th year in March 2008), and sometimes I feel as though I haven't completely gotten the hang of it. Especially the acting part. My singing has gotten to a nice place, where I feel comfortable with the voice that comes out of my mouth and the emotional commitment with which I perform a song. When there's a melody and a set of lyrics, plus a band or an orchestra behind me, I find the freedom to stop thinking and just sing. My intellect aids me only with remembering what words I'll have to sing next, and reminding me to not take any moment for granted. After all, each song lasts only a few minutes, every second counts.
But take away the music and the orchestra... then hand me a script for a straight play or a film. That's when I feel completely naked, unaided, and helpless. Sure the performance will be just fine in the end, but not before I go through being a complete and utter idiot for a few weeks. I feel like a sailor in the middle of the ocean, without the stars to guide me home. I knew that I needed help.
I took acting classes in LA off and on for about a year in an effort to gain some direction, and the one thing I came away with after all was said and done was this: STOP THINKING. Learn all your lines... your blocking... your subtext... know all of it like the back of your hand. And after you have all that down pat, forget everything you've learned and just do it. And learning how to stop thinking was one of the most difficult things I've had to do.
Perhaps it's the control freak in me... the mind doesn't like letting go of the wheel. But when my brain shuts down in complete surrender and allows my more basic, primal instincts to take the lead, it's one rapturous, glorious, incredible ride.