How to Keep Your Head up as You Tackle the Industry
Let’s face it: Acting as a career, or even as a hobby can be tough! You face constant rejection, crushed dreams, and nights getting home late from rehearsal and eating that whole carton of Ben and Jerry’s even though you promised your dog and yourself that you wouldn’t. Not to mention the ups and downs of finances, the lack of security, and the mental and emotional effort it takes to even book a job in the first place! Ahh Hollywood, how you’ve over-glamorized the actor’s life (cue Emma Stone’s character in La La Land living in some gorgeous apartment in L.A. while she works as a barista). But seriously, it’s hard sometimes, ok? And the sooner we as actors can acknowledge and support each other in that, the more unified and ready to conquer the casting call with 15 other people who like our clones we will be!
So from one humble actor to another, here are some tips and tricks you can use (or things you can avoid) when you’re feeling down about your success in the industry. Or just when it’s hard! Because it is sometimes, AND THAT IS ALRIGHT. As Jules Feiffer said “I told the doctor I was overtired, anxiety-ridden, compulsively active, constantly depressed, with recurring fits of paranoia. Turns out I’m normal”.
1. Stop comparing yourself to people, dang it.
Yeah, so your friend from high school just won three Tony’s. Or, on a smaller and maybe more realistic scale, it seems like everyone is booking work but you. Or everyone has a plan and a path for their career but you. Guess what? That’s ok!!! Just because you’re not seeing success now does not mean that you won’t see it eventually. As a sagely, anonymous quote on Pinterest once said: “allow yourself to be a beginner. No one starts at the top”. Even if you are a seasoned veteran, everyone has dry spells. That is part of the industry. Give yourself the time and the self-love to figure it out, and don’t make the achievements of others the measuring stick for your success. We often see the best in others while we ruminate on our own faults. So knock it off already!
2. Reflect on what you’ve already done.
Regardless of where you are in life, and as an artist, you have something you’ve created you can be proud of. Reflecting on those times and seasons of success can help you remember that you have done something, that you are capable, and that good times are coming to you in the future just like they came to you then.
3. Set goals and work towards them.
It’s important to be kind to yourself, and it’s just as important to keep moving forward (hint: they are often the same thing). Take your time to cry, and then get off your butt and do something. It will make you feel better. As my friend and mentor Ben Hopkin once suggested, simply doing one thing a day to further your acting career, even if it’s small, can bring big results. So you finally downloaded clips for your reel? Signed up for an audition at a theatre you’ve never worked at before? Watched a movie with some stellar acting? 10 points for Gryffindor! That is GREAT. Even if it’s small, DO SOMETHING. It’s almost always by small steps that we achieve great things, and you’ll feel better when you’re moving.
4. Get all the humans you love and keep them by you.
Ok that sounds a little crazy. Probably best to allow them to leave your presence every once in awhile for their own sanity. But seriously! Good friends and loved ones, those who are involved in acting and those who aren’t, can be an invaluable resource. They can push you to do things they know you’re capable of, even when you’re afraid. They can remind you it’s not the end of the world, and can give you hugs! And maybe chocolate! And who doesn’t like those? Moral of the story: keep all those lovely, glowing people close. Try being one too, and you might find the trick works both ways.
5. Take time to be a normal person.
Go for a hike. Read a book. Tickle a family member so hard they pee their pants. There is so much to do, and so many ways to find fulfilment even when things don’t seem to be going the way that we like professionally. And the more we experience as people, the more we have to bring to the table when we’re performing. It’s like an landscape artist investing in more paint. So go out and find ways to be expressive and to experience just for the sake of doing it, just for you. You’ll be happier and healthier not only as a person, but as an actor too.