Please help! I’m passionate and determined to make it as an actor but I’m getting nowhere. I send at least a dozen emails every day, I study scripts all the time, I go to class every spare moment, I attend every workshop I can but I just get rejection after rejection. Sometimes I don’t even get an answer! What can I do to change this?
Stop. Yes, you heard me right. Stop doing what you’re doing. Stop all of it. The emailing, the studying, the driving yourself up the wall waiting for a response. Stop it. Right now.
Have you stopped? OK, good. Now take a breath. I realise this is controversial and goes against everything you’ve ever been told but please, stop. What you’re doing isn’t getting you anywhere, is it? So why not try a different approach? Fit acting into your life and stop trying to fit your life into acting. Give yourself a break. What’s ‘making it’ anyway? No-one ever makes it – there’s always another mountain to climb.
You say you’re getting rejection after rejection. My mantra is “rejection is redirection”. You’re being redirected to something else. If your current package isn’t landing, for whatever reason, then you need to take a look at it, make some changes to it, mix it up a bit. If nothing is changing for you then you need to change something. Right now I suspect you’re on the verge of burning out and becoming disheartened and believe me, you’re not going to produce your best work that way. It sounds like you’ve got an acute case of being in Show Busy-ness instead of in Show Business. Yes, this career demands passion and commitment but at the end of the day, it’s a business – it’s a job. You need to step away and recenter yourself and replenish the creative well before it all runs dry.
This will be difficult and challenging at first but you need to take a break before you end up broken. Whenever one of my clients finishes a job their first text message to me is usually “what’s next?” My answer is always the same; “Now – you rest”. Those breaks in-between jobs are called resting for a reason! Like doing any physical exercise, in order to grow stronger, they need to give their bodies and minds time to process, recalibrate and grow. Resting is a vital part of the process. Ultimately a period of rest allows you to go on longer and stronger and this business is a marathon, not a sprint.
I would prescribe doing something creative but totally unconnected to the craft. For me, it’s macrame, believe it or not. For you it might be writing poetry (resist the urge to write a play or a monologue) or painting, maybe calligraphy, or candle making, sewing, pottery, jewellery, baking – the possibilities are myriad. Come at it with what Buddhists call Shoshin – ‘beginner’s mind’ – dropping your expectations and preconceived ideas about what something is or might be, and seeing things with an open mind, fresh eyes. Bring a willingness to learn and embrace the inevitability of failure. Developing beginner’s mind is going to reap rewards in your acting career. You’ll develop curiosity and playfulness – both essential tools in an actor’s kit box.
Once you’ve had a bit of time out (and maybe learned a fun new skill), come back to your work with a personal contract. Make a deal with yourself about how much time you’re going to spend on it. Instead of spending every waking hour on your craft, schedule time for it and stick to it. Maybe don’t send emails before 10am or after 5pm. Decide to only work Mon-Wednesday and keep four days free for other interests and pursuits. Designate an evening to spend time with your friends. You are never going to be able to attend every workshop. You are always going to miss out on some opportunities. Allow yourself to accept your limitations and give yourself time to be you. You are more than your acting career. Don’t let it become your sole focus or else your passion could become an obsession. No matter how much you love it, it’s never going to love you back.
Stay connected. Stay creative.
Got a question? Email JBR at [email protected]