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Failure as “Feedback”

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NatashaYoungeThree simple words that really sum up my life in general, but shook me to my core about three years ago.  There was so much “feedback” in my life that I was on the wrong track, but I didn’t know how to change course.

Let me paint a picture of the whole beautiful mess.  I was in the fight of my life at the crossroads, convinced that being an actor was my “calling.”  I obsessed about it around the clock, and couldn’t imagine my life doing anything else.  I cried Chekhov and Stanislavsky into my pillow every night, railing, choking, fists shaking at the ceiling.

Yes, this article is going to be a slightly self-deprecating, if you don’t know me very well.  And as embarrassing as it may be now, the railing and tears really happened.

Anyone, and I mean anyone, who suggested that I needed to try doing something outside of what I had been trained to do as professional actor quickly found me roaring in opposition.  Because it made me angry.  Angry that most every other profession in the world is expected to work continuously in their field so as to improve at their vocation.  Except actors.

So let’s go back to the junction, three years ago in late summer.  After training at one of the top drama schools in London, England, and working in three major markets, I felt like the epitome of a struggling, no-name, actress in Los Angeles.  The feedback was coming in loud and clear.

Fail #1.

I had put myself into staggering debt, frantically playing the audition “numbers game.”  The amounts I earned through temporary and part-time work (and “working” as an actor for free) did not offset my mounting expenses.

I knew that if I wanted to break into a higher level of demand on my abilities as an actress – and hopefully, a higher income level – my work had to become more widely known somehow.  (This was before social networking had become popular and widely used for self-promotion.)

Fail #2 & #3.

And then I needed to have major surgery for an illness that had been making me miserable for more than a year.  With all the time off for illness, and then subsequent recovery from surgery, my agent had no choice but to remove me from their books theatrically.

Without representation, an actor can become practically invisible.  Especially a new actor who has no “big news” to share every minute, like booking a television show.

Feeling sidelined and pitiful, I settled into a habit of watching an evening entertainment news show regularly.  But as I watched, I remember complaining aloud, “Why do they always show the same five people?  That’s why no one new can get a foot in.”

I howled in my living room, “Why doesn’t somebody do something about that?”

And then, it struck me:  Why don’t I do something about it?

“If there’s a problem in the world that bothers me, I’m responsible for fixing it.”  – Steve Pavlina

That quote seemed to fall out of the air at me.  Then I became silent as it’s truth sank into my core.  And the very next day, I took action.  That is how my online entertainment news publication began.

I have always loved sharing information with my friends about the industry; I really couldn’t seem to even help myself.  Enter a free Twitter application called Paper.li, and suddenly, I became a micro-publisher, with my own daily newspaper about the industry I loved so much.

My little publication started sharing what people I followed on Twitter were talking about.  They loved it, and thanked me for sharing their news.  Between that positive feedback, and my obsession for organizing information, this daily newspaper quickly became all-consuming, as I fine-tuned the sources, and built social bridges across my growing industry network of peers.  Through my newspaper, I was connecting daily with people who amazed me with their passion, brilliance, and knowledge about this industry.

My fixation with acting lessened as I found myself more interested in all aspects of the business again.  Although I love acting beyond reason, having access so many varying perspectives made me love storytelling again.  It made me excited about getting out of bed every morning to know that my unique journey as an actor includes connecting with, and serving, people who love this industry as deeply as I do.

So I failed miserably at being a myopic actress – and I gained access to an experience far richer than I could have ever imagined.  I still dream about, and actively pursue, my acting career, but now I am connected with people who are broadening the scope of how that looks and works for me in this amazing new era.

 

LEAVE A COMMENT.  Had a similar experience of ignoring “feedback” until it became intolerable?  Curious to hear what ways you’ve found to change course when something isn’t working.  Please share this article with friends who may be struggling similarly, and remember to subscribe to updates from Ms. In The Biz.  You’ll get a groovy summary of recent articles from all the authors here straight to your inbox.

Title inspired by Twitter quote from Nick Kellet:  https://twitter.com/paper_li/status/522096543458148352

Article uses some excerpts from a blog originally published at The Younge Hollywood Blast Blog, Messages From The Editor, July 18th, 2014

 

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About Natasha Younge

Natasha Younge is an actress ( General Hospital ) and comedienne ( The Ice House ) who has appeared in television, commercials, award-winning independent film, and musical theatre premieres from Los Angeles to London. She is currently pursuing an MBA at the Drucker School of Management ('19).