Q&A: Alexander King

Actor, writer and musician Alexander King on motivation, talent, and constant creativity

How have you managed to achieve so much over the years? Does it ever get too much?

I think just sheer hard work and never giving up. When I was younger I was a big believer in the concept of ‘talent’ but as time went on I realised that the ‘talented’ people I admired were just people who got stuff done, so I resolved to become one of them. When you stop talking about wanting to do something, and start actually doing it, that’s when the output ramps up and you start to get a body of work.

I also make a lot of sacrifices in order to be constantly creative – I don’t have much of a social life to be honest! And I don’t do a lot of recreational activities that might be common for others. I multitask: I listen to audiobooks when I’m driving, I plan my calendar meticulously, I keep lists, and I never let an idea slip past, even if I don’t know at that moment what to do with it. Something will pop into my head, like ‘infected meat turns populace psychic’ and I’ll jot it down and come back to it later, choosing the medium that I feel best suits it.

It can become too much sometimes. I have a long history of depression and anxiety, and have in the past ricocheted from depression from doing too little, to anxiety caused from the stress of having too much on. Nowadays I try to balance it and not have more than two active projects on the go at any one time.

What is it like being a creative artist living in York?

York is so beautiful. I was born and raised here and didn’t realise how lucky I was until I lived elsewhere while attending Art college. Everywhere I go in the country, I’m usually so happy to come back to York. It’s got a vibrant live music and art scene and there are so many cool creative people to work with.

Has there been a project that you have worked on which you have enjoyed the most?

I enjoy them all, in different ways. Some of them I don’t enjoy until they’re finished, and some of them I enjoy until they’re finished. I enjoyed writing the music for a musical based on Faust, which went to the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago. I also enjoyed working on The Trove of Curiosities, an evening of spooky Christmas stories, as I got to write a play, act in one and direct another!

Generally working with other people makes things more enjoyable, for example anything I do with Hedgepig Theatre, Wildgoose Theatre or Off The Rock is always tremendous fun.

Has there been an event or project for you which has been especially challenging and how did you manage to go through with it?

I was recently cast as Mickey in Cornermen, a play by Oli Forsyth set in the world of boxing. The rehearsal period was quite short, and large portions of the script consisted of myself and two other cornermen shouting instructions to an unseen boxer in the ring. The dialogue was so intricate and fast-paced, yet had to flow, it was a real challenge and every night stepping out on stage was somewhat nerve-wracking as a result. But we pulled it off, and got great reviews from the audience and the writer himself, who came down to watch a performance!

What made you get into Wing Chun Kung Fu and why this specific type of Kung Fu?

I’m a big fan of Bruce Lee, and when I was first reading about him I learned that Wing Chun was his first martial art. A few weeks later I was walking past Guppy’s Enterprise Club on Nunnery Lane and saw a poster in the window. I went into my first class and here we are, 19 years later and I’m a black sash (belt), a ‘Sifu’ (teacher) and still learning!

It’s a fantastic martial art for self-defence and self-confidence, and it definitely changed the type of person that I am. It’s hard to explain but the central concepts of Wing Chun can be applied to life and problem solving as easily as they can to punching someone in the face. I have a YouTube channel under the name MrYattix where I talk at great length about all aspects of Wing Chun, and I take on new private students a few times a year.

What advice would you give to students pursuing the same or similar disciplines to you?

Consider your objective. If your goal is to become a famous writer, that’s hard. If your goal is to become a writer, that’s easy – just write something. I started acting just over a year ago. Before that it was something that other people did that I greatly admired. I didn’t start acting wanting to be Ryan Reynolds, I just enjoyed the experience, and by the time I’d come off stage after my first ever acting gig, I was an actor. Now I just keep doing it and keep working hard and hopefully I get better.

Don’t think – do. I wonder how many amazing novels are still in people’s heads because they think they can’t write. The only way to get good at writing, or acting, or martial arts, or music, is to do it. Learn the basics, then let experience take you as far as it can. Finally, if you write something, sleep on it. You’ll always find something obvious that needs changing in the morning.

What are your biggest plans for the future?

I’d like to do more film acting. I’d like to get paid for it too! I think it’s hard to judge how good you are at something while you’re doing it for free.

I’m in the process of writing my third novel, and I’m always tinkering with the idea of writing a solo album, but I won’t start it until I think I have something to say, or an idea that will set it apart from what everyone else is doing. Beyond that, I’d just like to be happy – but who wouldn’t?

King’s debut novel, It Looks Like You’re Writing A Letter, is available now from Neuromantic Press.

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