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Taking a Break Can Launch Your Career

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I’m sure you’ve never heard anyone purport that not taking action in your career will help move you forward. I’m here to dispel the myth that you must be continually on set, in training, networking, and in a constant state of doing in order for your career to be what you dream it to be.

A personal example from my own life: A few years ago, I had a couple loved ones that were close to me pass away. Then, I suddenly had to move – twice. This was all within a matter of six months. To say that I was in survival mode was putting it mildly. With the grief I was feeling, traveling to funerals, arranging memorials, and the need to make sure I had a place to live, I quickly realized I didn’t have room for anything else.

I remember sitting in my living room after the second move to a new home and realizing I hadn’t really sat down with nothing else to do in months. I felt myself starting to relax. I felt something I hadn’t had recently in my life – stillness.

When we’re constantly moving, there is no room for feeling. Stillness allowed space for the grief to rise inside me, and I felt how tired I really was after months of consistently having to say goodbye to what I knew of my life.

I decided to put a pause on my career. What was most important was me and making sure that I had what I needed. That was not a new audition. It was not penning a new script. It was letting the grief, the tears, the stress move through me rather than keeping it bottled up inside or ignoring that it was there.

A year later, I did start to feel the creative bug hit me again – but this time, in a very big way. From allowing myself the space to process what had come up in my life and take a break from the usual, I suddenly had more passion, ideas, inspiration, and fire for my career than ever before. I wrote, produced, and starred in an award-winning fantasy action that I’m now developing into a feature with series potential. (Just released online – you can see it here.)

That launched me into more writing, more producing, and meeting some of the most amazing people in this industry that I would have never had the opportunity to work with had I not taken a break. It even led to my writing for this site and the article you’re reading right now. It led me to you.

Had I not taken a break and consciously given myself the time to focus on me, my life would be very different right now. I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have. I wouldn’t have the career that I have.

I have many colleagues and friends that worry that if they stop taking action, stop doing, that their careers will somehow end. This is operating from a place of fear that if we don’t deliver to some imaginary person that’s constantly demanding more work that we will be written off. If someone only values you for what you do and not who you are, then that person is not your friend. Value yourself for more than what you do. You alone, without what you do, are miraculous. You are precious, and caring for you is an essential part of your career.

Feeling guilty and beating yourself up for not “doing” forges the foundation of your career in punishment. Loving yourself means that you do not need to always be doing something in order for this industry to want you, value you, and notice you. Your resume is not what is valuable. It is you, the creator of all that work.

You create the art that you do because of who you are. Your vision and work comes from one source – you. When you focus on honing, caring for, and growing that source, your career will follow.

Taking a break is a leap of faith, in a sense. It means going against the glorified “starving artist” mentality. It means believing and having faith in your own unique talent, trusting that it will not disappear just because you decided to take a nap, go for a walk, or read a good book rather than audition for that project, write that script, or take a class.

Consider the arrow. It can only move forward and fulfill its purpose when it is pulled back. Taking a break, having your career on pause versus traditional “forward” momentum, is how you pull back on the arrow to launch yourself into glorious new heights.

Joanna Ke

About Joanna Ke

If grace married silliness, their child would be Joanna Ke. Joanna is an award-winning filmmaker that thrives in the industry as an actor, writer, professional script reader, and producer. She champions diverse stories led by women both behind and in front of the camera. Joanna has been creating stories ever since she was a child, performing skits for her sisters and scribbling in journals before she even know how to write. She studied the craft of screenwriting with the late, great Syd Field. As a professional script reader, she is known for her ability to masterfully analyze screenplays. Joanna runs the twitter account @femcharacters, highlighting the unfortunate way women are often portrayed on screen. She also isn’t too shabby as a stunt performer and sword fighter. Wielding her broadsword is a favorite both on camera and off.