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Maybe you need to get a hobby…?

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Erin Henriques.jpgNo, seriously, you probably should have a hobby.  I’m talking to you fellow actors and writers and creative types.  I used to think that being a driven, motivated actor meant I had to spend ALL my spare time and money on things that (I thought) could directly further my career.  I soon realized, however, that this is just a really great way to make yourself (and the people around you) crazy.  So, I’m here to assure you that not only can you afford to spend some time doing non-industry related things, you’ll probably be better off for it.

Here are my top five reasons why you need a hobby:

  1. 1.  Actor Robots are Gross

If you’re at a party and a friend asks you what you’ve been up to, and ALL you can do is rattle off your resume, name your past five auditions, and list who you’ve networked with lately…well, I’m sorry…but you’ll sound like an actor robot.  It’s kind of a turn off.  There’s nothing wrong with being excited about your career and telling people about it, but you still have to be a whole person!  Wouldn’t you feel less robot-like if you could tell that friend about the acting job you’re up for AND the cool trip you just went on, or the awesome jewelry you’ve been making?  Actors play all types of characters who do all types of things.  If you only spend your free time doing actor-y things or obsessing about your next career move, are you really doing yourself any favors?  (It’s the same thing for Writer Robots, Director Robots, etc.)

2.  You’ll meet new people:

Let’s face it, meeting new people can be hard…especially if you are self-employed, out of school, or just happen to live in LA.  Doing something like joining an adult kickball league (this is one of my favorites!) or being a member of a choir are great ways to make new friends.  You might meet awesome people (who have nothing to do with the industry) who you wouldn’t have met otherwise.  And if you do meet other people who work in the entertainment business, you’ll get to form relationships with them based on a common interest outside of work.  (I’ve been on kickball teams with agents and casting directors, and it was really cool to become friends with them before I even knew what their jobs were).

3.  Sometimes you need to shift gears

Giving yourself a chunk of time where you can completely focus on a hobby can be incredibly refreshing and energizing.  If you’re a writer who is blocked, stepping away from your work to paint a painting or go on a hike might be just the mental break you need to come back to your writing with a fresh perspective.  Think of it a palate cleanser for the mind.  There’s also something really great about doing an activity for fun and not needing it to have career-bolstering results.  I had an improv teacher who noticed that the students in her non-actor improv classes were sometimes freer and more willing to fail than the students in her higher level classes.  The higher level students all wanted to be professional comedians, so they often put too much pressure on themselves to “be good” and “get it right”.  So, if you’re an actor who loves to dance, but has no intention of ever becoming a professional dancer,  why not take a dance class when you need to remind yourself how to “let go” and “have fun” before a big audition?

4.  There’s power in completing something

Maybe you’ve been waiting for over a month to hear if your pilot’s been picked up.  Maybe you’re on draft 18 of a screenplay you thought would be done by now.  Maybe your film is in pre-production limbo.  Things in this business can take a long time to happen, and the waiting can make you feel insane.  So while you’re waiting, instead of working yourself into a panic, why not train for a half marathon, plant a garden, or master a new song on the guitar?  Completing a goal like this will be fulfilling, and the baby steps you need to take to accomplish these hobby-related endeavors might even inspire you to keep going with your career-related ones.  (I ran a half-marathon a year ago, and the incremental training it took me to build up my mileage, somehow encouraged me to keep going on a writing project, even when I felt like I wasn’t making progress fast enough).

5.  It’s FUN

Hey guys, life is supposed to be fun.  If you’ve chosen to lead a life in the arts, I’m going to assume you’re a fun person.  So let’s take advantage of our often sporadic periods of employment and atypical work hours by doing some awesome stuff!  In the middle of the day even!!! (Suck-it 9-5ers!)  It may even end up helping your career after all! (“Special Skills” anyone?)

Here’s list of some hobbies you might be interested in.  Many of them don’t cost much, so even if money’s tight, you can make it work!  Oh, and if you opt for an athletic hobby, make sure you do it because you actually enjoy it, NOT for some other result-oriented reason (i.e. you want to lose five pounds before you take new headshots).

So here goes:

-Recreational Sports Leagues:  There are adult baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, basketball, dodge ball, and kickball leagues all over.  Some are co-ed and some aren’t.  Check your local YMCA or Parks and Rec. department. For Kickball, check out http://www.kickball.com

-yoga, meditation, dance

-Sign up and train for a run (a 10k, a mud run, or zombie run!)

-Hike:  If you’re in LA, take advantage of Griffith Park, Runyon Canyon, or the beach!

-Arts and Crafts:  Check out a class or just go to an art store and do some experimenting on your own.  Try oil painting, watercolor, sculpting, pottery, jewelry making, model making, etc.

-Go to flea markets and buy old furniture to refinish.

-Sew, knit, crochet, and make cool stuff

-Go thrift shopping for vintage clothes

-Garden

-Join a choir or sing at karaoke bars

-Play an instrument, join a garage band, meet up with some friends for a weekly jam session.

-READ…not for research for a part, not a play for scene study class…read a novel just for fun!  Discover new authors you love!

-Cook:  Try new recipes, throw monthly dinner parties, take a cooking class…become a foodie!

-Go to museums.  Again if you’re in LA, LACMA, MOCA, and The Getty (to name a few) are right at your doorstep.

-Volunteer:  LA Works is a great resource to connect all types of charitable organizations in Los Angeles.  www.laworks.com

Anyway, you get the idea. The possibilities are endless. I’d love to hear about your favorite hobbies!  If you have any hobby suggestions or a links to cool groups, organizations, or classes, please share them in the comment section below!

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About Erin Henriques

Erin Henriques is an actor and writer. Originally from Los Angeles, she studied acting in Chicago (DePaul University) and London (LAMDA), worked as a make-up assistant on a movie in Mexico (Master and Commander), and briefly lived in New York (seemed like a serious actor thing to do). After amassing a lot of new life experiences and more than a lot of debt, she finally returned home to LA where she’s been working on film, television, web, and theater projects ever since. A fan of LA’s comedy scene, she completed the program at the Groundlings and has performed at IO West, UCB, The Steve Allen Theater, and The Hollywood Improv Lab. Currently, Erin can be seen in “Mandie and Earring”, a comedy web series about a pair of eccentric children’s singers. She is also writing her first feature-length screenplay. But not at Starbucks because that would be a cliché.