things i have learned from loving acting


Things I've Learned from Loving Acting (because I need to hear them again and perpetually):

1. It's never time to quit. Even if quitting is what you tell yourself you are doing, if this art is your passion, it won't quit you. You'll be presented with return ticket after return ticket. It won't let you quit.

2. Everyone in an audition is nervous. The writer thinks she wrote a shitty script, the producer thinks she has to prove herself, the director doesn't know what she wants, the casting director wants everyone in the room to think she has good taste in actors. You are not alone in your fear. Everyone is full of fear. It's a much more even playing field than you think. Also, everyone wants you to be good. No one is against you.

3. Floss. You can't always afford the dentist when you are pursuing an acting career, so floss; it is cheaper than cavities and root canals.

4. YOU are what is unique about your work. YOU are what is true about your work. YOU are the goods. Trying to overcome your singularity is a dark road to suffering. Your you-ness is what you must believe in, get in touch with and offer up; being visible is the privilege and the sacrifice. A lot of professions require people to shut down and shrink. The single NON-NEGOTIABLE requirement of acting is to possess yourself. Isn't that good news?

5. Stay off the trades. Deadline, Hollywood Reporter, etc. Go on those websites to see the articles that are written about you getting a job. Until that happens, they exist to torment and trouble you. They don't help. Seeing everyone else get a job (even in print) while you are unemployed doesn't strengthen your nerve, it makes you lose your nerve.

6. To ask myself this question constantly: Is that 100% percent true? When you tell yourself things like, "I will never work again" or "That was the best work I've ever done" or "I am not pretty enough or skinny enough or smart enough or passionate enough or powerful enough or that casting director hates me". You must follow up those thoughts or statements with this simple question: Is that 100% true?

7. Make art. Plant seeds in an empty soup can and put them in your window. Bake a cake. Buy a coloring book and color it in. Paint designs on your toe nails. Copy a poem out of a book onto a beautiful page of your journal. Do one creative thing a day. Like taking a vitamin, this is a commitment to your artistic health. You must feed what you want to grow.

8. Still your mind. Time Square Subway Station at 5:30 p.m. Commuter traffic on the 101. The check-out line at Union Square Trader Joes. That kind of frenetic chaos is my mind's default when I don't exercise, connect with others and meditate. Orient your mind for precision, for concentration and connection. Yoga, a jog, ten minutes of meditation, looking someone in the eye, turning off your cell phone for an uninterrupted hour. However you can, still your mind.

9. Forgive yourself immediately. It's impossible to pursue something this challenging and not make mistakes. You will arrive late to an appointment, you will say the wrong thing, you will not know the lines well enough, you will be too hung-over to care, you will get frustrated and take it out on your family and friends. You will let yourself down. It will happen. And you have to let it go. If you beat yourself for something you did wrong, it mushrooms into excuses and opinions and beliefs about yourself that are dangerous and toxic. You won't get the job. It will be between you and the other girl and she'll get it. It will happen hundreds of times. The next opportunity can't come until forgiveness happens.

10. Your imagination is powerful. Use your imagination to lift your spirit, not destroy it. Make sure your imagination is telling you a helpful story, not a bad one. Your imagination gave you this dream in the first place, so make sure it plays on your team. What is your BEST case scenario? Imagine IT.

11. When an acting job ends, which they always do, or an acting class or a workshop or a three-year graduate acting program, you feel grief. It's akin to a death. Something that was intense, expressive, dynamic, something you really loved is over. You are going through a break-up and it hurts. This is a beautiful, redemptive part of our work. All the entitlement, privilege and celebrity (if it comes) can't take away the feeling of loss when something ends (and it always does). I think this reality helps you stay grateful. Getting to do the work you love is a precious gift; love it while it loves you back.

12. Say yes. Go. Show up to everything. You will learn something about yourself, culture, art, humanity or the city that you can report in a meeting with your future agents or in your audition next week. There must be more to you than your desire to act. If you haven't lived fully, what experience will you draw on when you get the role? Go on the date, taste the new food, wear the vintage dress, put on the red lipstick and participate. All opportunity starts with a simple yes.