“Damn it, Morpheus! Not everyone believes what you believe!”
“My beliefs do not require them to.”
There are a lot of folks who will tell you there is only one way to do something. I’m not one of them. I’ve always said, “It’s not the one thing you do. It’s all the things you do.” That’s my way of (hopefully) making it clear that every person is on his or her own path, walking a journey that is unique, walking at a pace that is unique, experiencing things that are unique. And that means there’s never one guaranteed way of doing anything, ever. But that doesn’t mean experts (real and self-appointed) won’t speak as if there is “one way.”
Heck, you can sift through the archives of my columns right here and find contradictory statements. Why is that? Because I am a human being, having unique experiences as I walk along my unique path, at my unique pace, experiencing unique things. And everything I learn informs what I know at any given time. Everything I’ve experienced adds to what I believe in the next moment I check in with myself. And I’m a sharing critter, so everything I’m experiencing, everything I’m believing, everything I’m doing affects everything I’m writing about, every week. That’s an evolving thing.
Luckily, you’re growing and changing and experiencing new things that affect how you read my words every week. And that means you can read something that doesn’t click one day, but come back around to it on another day and absolutely feel like lightbulbs are popping on over your head, with each paragraph you take in. Bless those lovely archives! You never know when something from before will mean more than it did when you first read it. Someone whose POV may not have resonated with you before suddenly does. A teacher whose methods may have steered you toward callbacks a decade ago might no longer be the right fit for your craft’s improvement today. We’re all on a journey. And sometimes you need to hear things less than you do at other times. Sometimes you just need to throw it all away.
Hey, we’re not ever gonna line up with everything that everyone else says, every time. Not ever. (And if we do, eesh, I guess that means we’re clones or robots or something even scarier.) There’s no one way. There’s no the way. There’s no absolute right. There’s nothing that is 100% of the time exactly right-on for 100% of the people who try it out, 100% of the time. Nope. Not possible. Simply… NOT.
So the options are: Rail against that and be so dang sure that whatever you believe is totally right not only for you but for everyone on the planet (Hi, narcissist much?) or get that we’re all on our own paths. We all connect with what’s right for us — as the lovely individuals we are — at any given moment. We all line up with the medicine that heals us (not because everyone else says it’s a healing thing, but because we feel that it might work for us, where we are, who we are, right now) and we all understand what we tap into that might be more or less awesome for our overall goals. Only us. As unique individuals.
The bottom line here is this: Don’t overthink all of this. There’s a buttload of people on this planet who want to sell you their take on what would make you more famous, more awesome, more happy. I’m not trying to say there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just saying it’s really easy to read the advice of people who’ve barely made a blip in this industry and decide it guides you. But if you look inside yourself before you seek out gurus, maybe you’ll “get it” more. Whatever “it” might be.
If it matters, what I’d love for you to get is this: People who advise actors for a living are doing one of two things. One: They’re telling you what they know, based on their experiences, in case that may be helpful to you. (Yay! Good people! They have lived through something that they think might steer you away from the scary stuff and toward the more awesome stuff. And it’s not because there’s money to earn by telling you this. It’s because it just happens to be something they experienced and, on top of that, they are too share-y to leave it alone. They need to tell you this is what they’ve experienced. In case that matters to you. In case you can move forward from that information. In case you can build better choices because you have that knowledge.) Two: They have money to earn because you buy it whenever they say whatever that is that they say. And they need you to be so in love with what they say that they’ll actually say things that aren’t helpful or even close to accurate, because it pushes the right buttons in you and makes you need to come back for more.
I actually had this conversation with a top agent recently. We’re both completely appalled by the fact that someone who has booked a grand total of two legitimate acting jobs is not only selling her advice 140-characters-at-a-time on Twitter but also selling — for money — her time as an advisor. With no evidence that what she’s saying works for anyone. But it sure sounds good. So people buy it. My agent friend and I can be appalled by this, but it’s not going to stop. Because whatever it is that the actors who spend money on these bits of acting advice that are no more than urban legends are getting out of it, they’re getting something out of it. So, they’ll keep spending money on hearing it. That’s how “instant experts” pop up in every industry.
Hey, I get that even being fame-adjacent makes a lot of people feel that they have the right to be not only sought out but paid for their POV, but for the love of cripes, sometimes it’s just nuts. I sure wish actors would do some math and look up people before paying for their “wise” words. But in the end, what works for one might not work for others and what doesn’t work for one might be “the way” for others, too. So, again, what I’m saying is don’t overthink all of this. Be ready to seek out and enjoy the words that sound good to you, sure, but trust your gut and know that no one knows 100% for sure what would work for you.
Words don’t teach us. Our experiences teach us. So don’t get too caught up in what anyone says until you’ve tried it and decided whether it works or doesn’t… for you. And “trying something out” is sometimes too risky. Weigh some pros and cons. You’ll know. There are lots of people who tell you something that sounds so good, you’ll pay to hear more. Whether it works or not. Think about that. What does that mean? What are the stakes? For them, maybe there’s not too much at stake. But for you? Since you’re the one with the career and your own happiness at stake, I’d recommend that whatever you want to do, whatever makes you happy, whatever lines up with how you want to pursue this career you’ve chosen is what you need to embrace.
That doesn’t mean that what someone else embraces is wrong, and I encourage you to spend very little time concerned with how others work their lives out, how others meander on their unique paths. Instead, simply find what works for you (and reevaluate regularly, as you are a constantly changing and evolving critter, you know) and throw the rest away.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001078.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.