Actors spend a lot of their time dreaming about other worlds. We do our best to find ourselves within the mindsets of different characters, and to bring them to life. We also spend a great amount of time trying to get inside of the minds of agents, casting directors, and writers. We want to know what they want, who they want, and why aren’t we the answer to their equation? We invest money into making sure our business (ourselves) is in tip-top shape. Sometimes these investments pay off in the form of commercial work and equivalent money making endeavors. We get lucky sometimes, and others not so much. There is a constant pull we feel; keep going or give up? How do we know which road to choose? Allow me to give you my take on this.
For starters, I think you need to think about the moment you first decided you were going to pursue a career in the business. Imagine that moment in your mind. Sense memory if you will. See what senses you can conjure up and what they tell you about your state of mind in that moment. Now once you’ve found that moment, what else pops into your head? Are you thinking about standing on the stage at the Kodak Theater accepting an Academy Award from Miley Cyrus (OK, hopefully you pictured someone better than that. Cause if it’s Miley, I’d get that thing cleaned immediately after the press photos are taken.) Maybe you saw a crowd of people cheering you on as you finished a great performance. Did you see yourself living a lavish lifestyle, one in which you wear fake fur, but allow PETA to toss red paint on you because you put on the facade that it’s real to make you look cool? Most importantly, are you happy in this moment?
Let’s focus on that last point. Whatever kind of moment came to your mind as you took a stroll down memory lane is what your heart is thirsty for. But of course, you have to separate the tangible from the intangible. Some dreams remain just that, dreams. And dreams are ok. I used to dream that I was going to be the sixth member of The Spice Girls. And although I had that British accent down, knew all the lyrics to their songs (even the B sides), and had my Spice name all picked out (Quirky Spice), despite all of that, I knew at a certain point that it would remain a fun place within my imagination. However, I think what ultimately squashed my dreams/plans was the fact that I just couldn’t walk in platform shoes. That would’ve definitely been the deal breaker for them. I’m sure of it. Dreams are fun. And they keep us going. But what about goals?
We know what goals are, and we can be guided on the process of achieving them. And most times, if we work really hard and are specific about our goals, we can attain what it is we want. But here’s a flipside to that; what happens when we fail? Failure stings. We get emotional thinking about the hard work we put it, and the fact that we didn’t see the results we’d dreamed about. (See where I’m going with this?) But I bet something was learned in the interim. Our hard work wasn’t for nothing. Yes, it sucks to feel rejected. But even if you were chosen, or that goal was met, does that mean you’re done? Had your journey ended? What constitutes an end to a journey?
If you’ve chosen to be an actor or any other type of artist, it isn’t the kind of career that when you turn sixty you can decide “Oh I’m going to retire and move to Florida and hangout with jellyfish because I can!” You might. And if so, good for you. You can stop being a dentist or a lawyer if the job has run its course and you are financially set. You move on when you feel that part of you is done. As an actor, you never have to. You can make a conscious choice to stop, but even if you’re not working, you’re still an artist. I plan to be an artist until the day I die at a hundred and twelve (God willing), hooked up to an intravenous streaming cupcakes into my veins while I’m still trying to entertain. Why would I do that? Because I love it. And if you love it, that’s all that matters. If you can close your eyes and still see what makes you happy, even during the down times in your career, then it’s worth it. Believe it in your heart.
So I think ultimately, the real answer to the question of “When do I give up?” is never. If you can look deep down inside of yourself in the darkest and most rejected phases of your career, and see a light at the end of that subconscious dream bubble when you think about performing (whether it be on stage, on a set, or whatever format of creating art you’ve adapted as your own) that’s the key. If you can smile when thinking about going out and playing, then you never really give up. A great storyteller will always complete their story. And every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s a journey. For all my fellow struggling artists out there; we are in the midst of our beginning. If we give up, then the audience will be disappointed that there are no more chapters to dig in. So what do you say? How about we continue to write this story? And go!
*photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club