The lifestyle of an actor (like many self-employed creatives) can feel lonely, difficult, useless, isolating, amongst many other hardships. As discussed so frequently with my creative friends, it is so important to keep our physical and mental wellbeing in good shape, so we can continue to strive towards our goals and dreams.
The phrase ‘self-care’ has been somewhat overused in the past few years and has lost some meaning, but the concept is simple, if we do not implement rigorous habits and rituals in our lives – creative or not- we will suffer the consequences.
Actors are required to be self-motivated. In fact, this is the primary element of their life. No one is checking to see if you are applying for jobs, utilising your networking opportunities, creating your own projects or practicing your craft. Only you will know how hard you are truly working, and with so little accountability – this can be challenging.
Before we get into the practical do’s and don’ts, understand that finding motivation a difficulty does not make you lazy. You just need to find what works for you, and even then it will go up and down.
We spoke to a group of professional, working actors and asked them about their daily habits and rituals that help them stay on track.
1. Find a group of accountability pals!
This could be a couple of people from your acting class, or from drama school or just some friends. Maybe they aren’t even actors – they just work for themselves! Check in with them on a zoom call every week or everyday if it suits you. Discuss your goals and your to do lists. Then, when you next get together you can hold each other accountable, and maybe, finally you will stick to filming that monologue you have been putting off for months!
2. Positive self-talk!
In such a competitive field, it is so important to not lose faith in yourself. When you have been through months of rejection, (or worse- no auditions to even be rejected from!) it is easy to start thinking negatively. This could sneak up on you, and before you know it is affecting the way you work. Daily positive affirmations have been backed up by science countless times, demonstrating that the ritual improves confidence, self-esteem and changes the way you think. I don’t think anyone can deny that thinking positively about yourself, your abilities and whatever situation you are in, is beneficial. You can find affirmations on Youtube. I KNOW, some of you are sighing – maybe it isn’t your thing. But just try it. After one month, if it is still not your thing- then I will leave you alone.
3. Get good at seeing the difference between self-care and procrastination.
Finding the balance between forgiving yourself because it is good to give yourself a break and knowing when you’re just procrastinating is a tricky game. The brain can be an evil sidekick, prepared to convince you out of doing anything slightly out of your comfort zone. But usually we know, deep down, if we are owed a break or not. Be honest with yourself.
4. Learn how to have a successful ‘half day’.
If you are feeling unwell, exhausted or just having a terrible day – and the last thing you feel like doing is applying for jobs and filming that self-tape. Listen to your body and compromise. Pick 2 or 3 simple tasks that will not take long and complete them. This will give you a feeling of satisfaction and achievement, and you’re less likely to spiral into a lazy week/month (we’ve all been there.) Once you’ve completed them, take the rest of the day off and feel good about it!
5. Join a class.
In this digital crazed era, where now everything has moved online, we have so much choice when picking a class. Yes, it is important to keep growing our skills and keep our craft as current as possible. But it is also a fantastic opportunity to connect with like-minded people. They may be having a tricky time like you and engaging in a scene or a project on a regular basis can keep you socialising and clear-headed. A lot of online acting classes do a check-in at the beginning of each session. Most classes online are reasonably priced, even some giving you a free taster session. If you have the choice between ordering those extra couple of drinks out on the weekend or taking an acting class for a couple of months, I think you know which one will fulfil you more.
6. Keep doing things that you make you FEEL like an actor.
Do the fun, creative things that make you feel alive and remind you that you’re pursuing a passion. Take a break from emailing agents, applying for jobs and filming self-tapes. Everyday do something that is truly fun! This might be writing a script, or trying different accents, or filming a scene from a play that you love. Perhaps it is just doing a rigorous drama school warm up that reminds you that you are an artist at work. If you don’t insert some enjoyment into everyday, motivation is hard to sustain.
7. Are you really moving towards your goals?
BUT, organising your own schedule everyday, it is very easy to start doing ‘fluff’… Things that aren’t really moving you towards your goals. For instance, reading this blog…and then reading 10 more blogs during your workday. Watching a video, and thinking it’s okay because it is work related. Sorry – that is clever procrastination. At the beginning of everyday, write down your goals and decide if your ‘to do’ list is truly bringing you closer to those goals.
8. Keep searching for the perfect bread and butter job.
Don’t give up trying to find the perfect flexible, zero hour, but doesn’t crush your soul job. It is worth it and if it stops you from hating your life, never stop searching for something better.