You made the decision. You weighed the risks. You sold everything you owned and moved across the country, leaving family, friends, and loved ones behind. The pursuit of your dream is so important to you that everything else pales in comparison. There are no other options. You MUST be an actor. You’re here! You’re doing it!
Then why are you so unhappy?
You’re living your dream, right? You’re in the game! You’re pursuing your passion with every ounce of your being, no matter what you had to give up in order to do so. This is IT!
Well, it turns out that what “it” is — most of the time — is patience, persistence, professionalism, passion, and preparedness. Very little of that recipe is “fun.” Most of it is “work,” and “work” isn’t “fun,” or else they’d stop paying us to do it.
So, what can you do to get out of the Actor Funk, when you find yourself there?
First, I wouldn’t advise you to rush out of it. That Actor Funk is an important part of your process as a creative person. You generate emotions for a living, right? Find something in this slump from which you can learn and start applying that nugget to your craft. One of the things I do when I get down in the dumps is WALLOW IN IT. Believe me, nothing helps you get out of a slump more efficiently than throwing yourself into it 100%. Once you let the Actor Funk become all-consuming (and stop fighting it), you quickly get a sense of humor about yourself. You look at yourself bawling in the mirror and think, “Am I crazy?!? In the big scheme of things, this is really no big deal!” And just like that, you’re on your way out of it, lesson intact (don’t forget the lesson, while you’re there).
Next, I’ll remind you that everyone suffers from Actor Funk at some point and to some degree. Don’t worry about paying attention to others’ experiences or choices in dealing with their own “stuff,” but know that you aren’t weathering something that has never been experienced by anyone else, ever. No one is that dang special! All of this “stuff” is pretty common, even if it’s new to you at the moment. And there is something powerful about that truth. Once you realize that everyone has doubts and fears, leading them to believe they aren’t talented enough to deserve success or that they couldn’t handle fame if it came to them, you begin to enjoy that you are a part of the collective artist community and that it is from those fears and doubts that you build characters and emote realistically as another person in your acting. No one artist is alone simply by virtue of the fact that every artist feels alone. That’s a large fraternity of creative types; all certain they’re on their own.
Ironic, isn’t it?
When I was pursuing acting in 1993, I was also taking a course at UCLA Extension called “The Art of Creative Living and Working.” The instructor began the first class with the question, “Are you happy? Great! Enjoy it. It’ll pass.” Everyone laughed. Then he continued, “Are you sad? Great! Enjoy it. It’ll pass.” While we found the “happiness is fleeting” idea of the first statement amusing, we found the second concept a little odd. How should we enjoy being sad? And when we’re sad, we all feel it will never pass, right? Aha! That was the point. Just as happiness is a temporary emotion to enjoy, so are emotions like sadness, anger, joy, fear, and everything else for that matter. If we focus on holding on to an emotion we like (happiness, joy, excitement), we actually train ourselves to hold on to emotions (including the ones we don’t like holding on to). It is far more pleasant overall to find ways to enjoy observing the many emotions that come and go as we live our lives, not investing any more or less energy into any of them. How liberating!
One of the toughest parts of being a working actor is keeping yourself sane. There are so many reminders of the extreme level of success the “stars” of this industry enjoy that you can easily get swept up in an overwhelming sense of “never good enough,” even if you’re getting ten auditions a week. I know a network series regular who gets the Actor Funk for six months at a time (yes, the six month’s he’s technically “out of work” from the series). Everyone does this. The goal is to find ways to make that Actor Funk less debilitating each time you find yourself in it.
Let’s look at other lines of work. Can you imagine if a real estate agent only EVER heard about other real estate agents who sold billions of dollars of property every quarter? What if a doctor only EVER heard about other doctors who developed cures for our generation’s most crippling diseases? Talk about ego-shattering competition for the “average guy” in those jobs! Well, when you subject yourself to a non-stop diet of E! and Entertainment Tonight and US Magazine, you are setting yourself up for both an unrealistic view of the business you’ve entered AND an easy inroad to the Actor Funk trail.
When you feel that happening, go see a play. Go to open mic night at a local comedy club and watch people hit-and-miss with new material. Heck, go watch someone NOT in the entertainment industry doing his or her job for ten hours straight. MOST of the time, life is not glamorous. The pop culture machine that tells you that you should be hearing your name called off the edge of the red carpet while flash bulbs pop is LYING to you. Sure, that stuff may happen, but remember that during most hours of most days of even the most famous people in this town, that sort of thing is not happening at all.
So, while I’ll advise you to find joy in simply pursuing your dreams (yes, even during the hours when you’re waiting tables, mixing cocktails, alphabetizing files, or telemarketing), I’ll also remind you that the Actor Funk is normal. Don’t try to prevent it. Simply embrace it when it comes along and enjoy that it validates the fact that you are an artist, living an artist’s life. Enjoy it! It’ll pass. And if you’re having one of those days where the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the traffic is flowing smoothly, and your agent is calling with another audition… enjoy it! It’ll pass.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000193.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.