An excerpt from “Awakening the Actor Within” workbook
Let’s begin with discouragement. (I know, ouch!) How do we come back after we fail? When we give a shitty audition? Our agent drops us? When the film we are the lead in goes belly up?
We become frightened, angry, discouraged, and we quit. It’s true. We do. This is a very difficult profession filled with “impossible” odds, fierce competition, and it takes incredible courage to keep at it. Often, it takes many, many discouraging moments to develop enough ego strength to demand all the attention to move center stage and claim that glory. There are many reasons to stop acting. I know, actors are supposed to have tough skins and be able to bounce off any and all discouragement, but that is not always the case. I wish I had that kind of power, ego-based energy, but most times, I have to be nudged along.
I recently talked to a friend who was “crushed” because the show she was auditioning for was “pre-cast,” and she did not get the part she had her heart set on. She was ruined and said she actually threw her headshots away and was going to get a “real” job”! I understood her pain. I also gave her a dose of “never give up!” I said, “You take those headshots out of the trash and you go to any audition you can find.” Well, she took my advice and the next week she was cast in a better part! The task I ask you to do now is write out some discouraging moments. Just getting them in writing helps lesson their power over you.
Complete the following sentences ten times:
I quit acting because_______________________.
What did your list look like?
Here is mine:
1. I quit acting because I didn’t make any money at it.
2. I quit acting because my agent dropped me.
3. I quit acting because I got bad reviews.
4. I quit acting because I didn’t like the acting teacher.
5. I quit acting because I was criticized by my friend.
6. I quit acting because I didn’t get cast in the role that was mine.
7. I quit acting because my parents didn’t support me.
8. I quit acting because I grew too old.
9. I quit acting because I needed to make a real living.
10. I quit acting because I didn’t believe in my talent.
Does your list look a bit like mine? We all have something of the same list, I’m sure. Discouragement is hard. Often, we don’t acknowledge our pain, and it becomes bitter scar tissue that we ignore and believe we can forget about. What happens is we stop believing and we shut off our creativity, and our lives become difficult & depressed. We stop trying and we let the douchebags win! (I mean that in the nicest way)
The trick is to repair our broken bones and start walking once more. This does not happen overnight. I’ll repeat (for the impatient ones): This does not happen overnight! It’s important to be gentle and kind with yourself. We think we must get tough and mean with ourselves and criticize ourselves and just “get with it,” but this only creates more anger, fear, guilt, and frustration. So I urge you to go steady and slow until you rebuild your courage backup. Take it from me, there will be setbacks. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel, but we now know enough to not! Right? Good. Acting was once our passion and it can be again over time. With small and delicate steps, we’ll piece you back together again.
Often, we forget that we are actors at all! We forget the game and we stop playing. If we’ve been damaged, hurt, and shamed, we stall out on the side of the road. We let small things stop us:
Now let’s make another list.
Finish the following ten times:
I still want to act because________________________
1. I still want to act because I want to make money.
2. I still want to act because I want to be on Broadway.
3. I still want to act because I want to be on a sitcom.
4. I still want to act because I’m damned good at it.
5. I still want to act because my parents don’t want me to.
6. I still want to act because I know I can make it.
7. I still want to act because I’m cute.
8. I still want to act because it beats the day job.
9. I still want to act because that acting teacher was wrong.
10. I still want to act because I deserve a home in Malibu.
Did your list kind of look like mine? Good. See, we’re starting to find motivation again. This is fire, or at least smoke. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Now we just need to throw some firewood on. We need to get the sparks flying again.
This is a two-part exercise to dig up our pain, air it and find reasons to keep moving forward!