Summertime Blues

I’m betting very few actors reading this week’s column were around in 1958, enjoying the Eddie Cochran song “Summertime Blues.” But we all probably know the song:

What is it about summertime that both thrills us and brings out some of the downiest downs?

I figure it’s a few things, like, it is a little slower this time of year, and that shift in the momentum we may have had going during pilot season and into the spring could feel like a blow to the ego. Also, it’s the midpoint of the year, and there’s nothing like the passage of that much time to remind us how far we are from accomplishing the goals we may have set out for ourselves, January 1st. For those of us who had the most traditional schooling, summer is supposed to be our vacation. We’re supposed to travel and have fun with friends and take a break from the work of the academic year. That habit feels hard to break, until we’ve had more years working year-round than we’ve had taking the summer off. Days are longer and therefore we feel like we should be getting far more accomplished each day… right as we’re feeling least inspired to stay the course.

I’ve been writing this column enough years now to see a very clear pattern in the type of emails that come in, seasonally. Actor Funk is at its peak and I’m encouraging everyone to Cheer Up (myself included). The creative pursuit includes some dips that — for whatever reason — land hardest in the summer months. No, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen at other times, or that everyone is walking around blue just because it’s June, July, or August. But because my inbox has more “how do I stick with this” emails than “how do I stick my resumé onto my headshot” emails, here are a few tips on hangin’ in there.

Positivity. Yup. Clean up your self-talk, especially if you like to tell yourself you suck at something, that you’ll never get anywhere, or that this business is hard. The things we tell ourselves are some of the most powerful motivators (and therefore de-motivators, when we’re in a funk) we’ve got going, here. Happiness is a choice. Choose it.

Organization. Take that list of stuff that’s not yet in list form (or that was, earlier in the year, and now just looks like chaos again) and start prioritizing. If you’re overwhelmed by all of the to do’s, use a strategy Earl Nightingale describes in Lead the Field and make a list of the six most important things that need to get done TODAY. Ignore everything else. Don’t stress if you don’t get to all six of these things, but you’ll notice you’re able to get more done when you don’t let the distraction of ALL that needs to get done pull your attention.

Sharpen Your Tools. Get out your actor goodies and make sure they’re in tip-top shape. Headshots, resumés, demo reel, website, marketing materials, and of course your craft. Get back into class if you’ve taken time off. Summer is a great time for some short-session intensives to get your mojo back!

Read. Read plays. Read screenplays. Read books about this industry. Read articles in the trades. And then read things that have nothing to do with this business whatsoever, because having balance will save your booty more than you may realize!

Listen. Listen to podcasts. Listen to books on tape. Listen to TED talks. Listen to woo-woo, centering, spiritual stuff. Listen to conversations others are having. Listen to dialogue. Sit still and listen to yourself — but not when you want to dish out any of that negative self-talk we’ve covered above!

Write. Write a short story. Write a poem. Write a song. Write a play. Write a scene. Write a monologue. Write a journal entry. Write a blog post. Write a letter. Write an article to submit to a publication. Write a book. Write a character sketch. Write something. It’s good for you.

Cut Back on Junk. Any junk. Junk food. Junk TV. Any psychic or creative clutter. Cut it out of your life, because its power is strongest when you’re already trending downward with anything else in your life, emotionally. I noticed a month or so ago that I was yelling at the TV during some reality show reunion of somesuch and I then asked myself, “What place does this crap have in my life? And, more importantly, WHY?” Out it went. Phew! Amazing what you can do with your time when you’ve cleared out noise. Next out? Social networking. Impossible? Not really. Check out Ben Whitehair’s account of going dark while he got his creative life back in order. Ninja stuff!

Find New Dragons. You’ve heard the phrase “chasing the dragon,” right? Of course, it has drug connotations, and that’s not the road I’m sending you down, here. What I’m doing is drawing a parallel between that addiction-based need to do that thing that feels SO DAMN GOOD you can’t get enough of it and this creative pursuit.

Here. Let me share something personal. This will not be news to anyone who reads my personal blog or who follows me on Twitter, but for the rest of y’all, here it is: I took up pole dancing on March 3rd. Yup. And here I am, 16 weeks later, enrolled in three classes per week (minimum), and full-on DEPRESSED when I’m not at The Pole Garage, flying. I actually find myself blue — and sometimes angry — for what feels like no reason, and then I realize it’s because I find non-flight moments of my life boring by comparison.

Now, that’s not fair. I’m rarely bored. I have a killer life and I really do love so much of my every single day. I’m very lucky that way. But once I started chasing the pole dragon, let’s say, I started commiserating with my actor friends who are at that frustrating tier where they work as a recurring character on a show and then go on hiatus and find things frustratingly slow. I now GET how infuriating it can feel to have experienced the high of that applause from the live studio audience at that first network taping, only to have it followed-up with a bunch of, “We can’t get you into that casting office,” conversations from your agent.

So, what do we do? We find new dragons to chase. I often say, “You’ve gotta get down with the pursuit, because you’re gonna be pursuing a hell of a lot more than you’ll be on set, DOING the work.” This is what that’s about. Find ways to get excited about all the little things. Find ways to embrace and to rejoice in the minutia, to stay plugged in so that you are creating and playing and thriving even when things are slow. Produce your own work. Pull together an informal script reading group. Collaborate and celebrate this journey, so the times between big wins in your career aren’t also DIPS into the blues. Oh, and if you’re me? You buy a home pole.

How do you keep the Summertime Blues away? Pop your best tips in the comments below!

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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