Ah, you just returned from yet another national tour of Beauty and the Beast and you feel like you’re on top of the world. You celebrate your grand return with margaritas and laughs with friends in the city. Then after a few days pass that pesky little voice in the back of your head starts whispering….
“Psssst, you’re a hack- and you’re never going to work again.”
You ignore it. You slay a couple dozen auditions… you hear nothing. The callbacks are drying up. People ask how you’ve been, and you find yourself still spouting out that tired phrase of trying to get your bearings back after being on tour- even though you’ve been home for six months. Panic ensues! Pretty soon you’re convinced you’ll never work again.
You’re not alone. Every actor harbors the same secret fear that the last job was literally the last job. The uncertainty of work is part of the performer package, but learning how to cope with the down periods is imperative to staying sane and functioning in this business. Sometimes the key to unemployment is to throw yourself into your work by creating your own work, and sometimes it’s the opportunity you’ve needed to step back from the biz and take a much-needed look into your soul- be it meditation, a new hobby, or a trip of a lifetime. Here are some different ways to get your groove back and calm that pesky inner voice whilst in between gigs.
1. Help Someone Else
The best way to get out of your head and out of a funk is to put yourself aside and do for others. Do a benefit like ASTEP (Artists Striving to end poverty) or Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. What better way to buck up than to share your talents for a good cause?
Stream-of-consciousness journaling can unlock those creative juices- your next inspired project may be just a few scrawling pages away. Not only does journaling unlock creativity, it can help you gain perspective on those nasty voices in your head and help clarify your goals.
3. Get Outside
Get in touch with nature and go on a long walk. Check out a botanical garden and breathe in the tranquility (and the smog-free air.) Many studies have shown that getting outside and away from technology is not only good for our physical health but our mental and emotional health as well.
4. Study a New Craft
If you’re an actor, pick up a paintbrush. If you’re a singer, sit down and write a short story. Take a modern dance class, finger-paint with your nephew, build a birdhouse, learn how to make soap, build a napkin holder out of wine corks, pick up an instrument, write a poem… There’s no better way to spark creativity than getting out of your comfort zone.
There’s something therapeutic about cleaning. Not only does it bring order back to your living quarters, it brings order back to the mind. Scrubbing and sweeping are repetitive actions that allow the psyche to rest, which allows new ideas to enter the mind.
6. Get Rid of Stuff
Out with the old and in with the new. Clearing out your closets and tossing out old clothes that you don’t like anymore creates space for the new things in your life. It may sound hokey but it’s worth a try. Besides, you know you don’t need that old Vote for Pedro shirt anymore.
Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi- whatever does it for you. Clear your mind and find some tranquility to get recharged and reconnected to yourself.
8. Give Back
Teach what you know. Help out with an after-school program at a local school. Many of these programs are looking for volunteers to read to kids, teach dance and acting classes, and help kids learn to read and write.
9. Do a Table Reading
Writers are always in need of actors so they can workshop their material. It’s a great way to flex those cold-reading muscles while also networking and working on your craft.
10. Take a Class
Any class! Improv, commercial reading, VO, Meisner Class, Alexander, Fitzmaurice, whatever! Take a workshop, do a master-class, get back in there and watch the sparks start to fly again.
So, next time you’re in an “I’ll never work again” funk, keep calm and remember the best way to keep your craft alive is by adding things to your life. Better life = better art!