It is a truth universally acknowledged that the nerds, wallflowers, freaks and misfits who occupy the borderlands of the high school social landscape generally turn out to be the most influential, creative and successful individuals in the real world. Observing this law of nature at his 10-year high school reunion, director Tim Burton noted: "There seemed to be some sort of catharsis about growing up and being alone that made you rely on yourself."
Perhaps no one illustrates this dictum better than Chris Colfer, a former high-school outsider who, at the age of 21, is at the pinnacle of an already-legendary Hollywood career and has been named one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People In The World. And his roster of work is only growing -- with his originating role as Kurt Hummel on "Glee," a critically-acclaimed new film that he wrote and starred in, and another screenplay in the works, the young artist shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
But Colfer overcame awkward and often painful high school experiences on his way to mega-stardom. Now, the "Glee" star's memories of teenage wasteland are the creative fodder for "Struck By Lightning," a film that he wrote and starred in that premiered at this year's TriBeCa Film Festival and was recently picked up for wider theatrical distribution. In the film, Colfer plays Carson, an overly-ambitious high school senior who blackmails his classmates into joining the school's literary magazine, which he founded to boost his chances of getting into college and escaping his small-town blues.
Colfer says of Carson and the literary magazine: "He’s doing this for himself, but it ends up helping everyone along the way." The same could be said of Colfer himself, whose work, both on and off the set of "Glee," has encouraged a young generation to refuse to apologize for being who they are -- whether they're gay, straight or anything in-between.
After the New York premiere of "Struck By Lightning," HuffPost Teen sat down and chatted with Chris Colfer about surviving high school (hint: you'll need a partner-in-crime) and turning his pain into art.
1. Find A Sidekick. "I was President of the writers club of my high school, I had a friend like [the character] Mallory -- me and my friend Melissa were totally that. She’s my partner in crime-slash-sidekick. We tried running the school paper, and God, we ran with it until it just died."
2. Don't Be Afraid To Try (Or To Let Go When Something's Not Working). "When I was a freshman, I joined the writer’s club. It had all these really cool seniors in it and it was a really cool thing to be a part of -- but then they graduated and it was just me left in the writer’s club. Kids don’t want to write unless they have to, so it wasn’t an easy club to recruit people for. I tried, and we did a literary magazine to raise money every year and no one ever bought it. I did that sophomore year and junior year, and then senior year I finally gave up. I was like, ‘I should probably just do homework instead of doing this b*tchwork.’"
3. Find Your Voice. "I think so many people are afraid of writing because they’re afraid to find their voice, or they think they have no reason to. But absolutely, that’s the point of Carson. He’s doing this for himself, but it ends up helping everyone along the way to find their own voice."
4. Get Inspired: "[The lightning metaphor] is like the way a good idea comes to you –- you’re sitting there and you’re thinking and thinking and all of the sudden -- boom! An idea hits you and you’re obsessed with it. It’s like electricity! It hits you and your body is consumed with it until it ends up killing you. An idea is the same way –- it will kill you unless it gets out somehow."
5. Chill Out. "Oh Gosh. CALM DOWN. Oh God, Don’t be afraid to be human –- you’re human, you’re going to have emotional days. You’re going to have days when things suck and then some days when things are great, but don’t feel guilty because you’re experiencing that. Don’t feel guilty from being human."
6. Keep Your Eye On The Prize. "As long as you have a goal, the struggle will just make you a better person along the way."
7. Don't Be Afraid To Let People In. "Much like Kurt, I internalized everything in high school. I didn’t let people know what I was thinking or feeling because I was afraid that someone would use it against me. [My sexual] orientation was completely internal -– no one knew and if people would think of me in any other way, I would panic. I didn’t want anyone to have that hold over me. I didn’t want anyone too close to me. Where I grew up, everyone was called the f-word, everyone was called gay negatively, because that was just the worst thing you could be.... [Sometimes] I think I’m still in that mentality –- I don’t think it ever leaves you. It’s one of those traumatic high school scars that I’ll carry with me."
8. Turn Those High School Scars Into Your Creative Inspiration. “[The film] started as a way for me to vent about my high school frustrations. I thought it was really funny and I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to make this into a movie if I can someday.’ And then I got on 'Glee' and I found myself in a position where it was possible to get it done. So I did, and got the right people attached, and here we are."