Have you ever felt so emotional and raw that you just couldn’t put yourself out there any more? That you should be sharing your work as an actor/artist/writer, but that you honestly didn’t feel ready to share it? And that that inability to share had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with vulnerability?
In a nutshell, that describes exactly where I’ve been since mid-May. In the beginning, I tried to push through those feelings — the desire to hide or to hibernate. Being an actor is always vulnerable, but if we don’t put ourselves out there, it isn’t possible for work to come our way. So I kept writing my blog, auditioning, and seeking work, but I found that I was feeling more and more drained. So I decided it would just have to be okay to step back for awhile and give myself the opportunity to explore and grow without any pressure of putting it out there.
It’s pretty interesting that in this time period Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book “Big Magic” came out. I started by listening to her free podcast “Magic Lessons” and was so addicted that the book was close behind. I ended up getting it as an audiobook because I often find it easier to listen to a book than read it, since I am constantly on the go. While the audiobook isn’t tremendously long, contained within are some beautiful nuggets. And one of my biggest takeaways is that my practice of acting need not always begin with the thought that it needs to be shared. And that the practicing of my art on a regular basis is far more important than the external shape of what comes out of that practice.
Writers say that the first draft could be terrible, but the most important thing is to get it onto the page. I think that for actors that translates as: it is more important to speak the words, own the truth, and get better at my craft, than to worry about if it is any good during that process.
Getting good comes with practice. There is no guarantee of good. I may practice and practice and never be good. But if I’m only focusing on results (being perfect, being good), the potential of what could be from a gentle rehearsal process might never emerge.
A lot of what I’ve been doing with my process of actor is going back to pencil sketches and filling it in with color. My process as an actor began in a very organic improvisational way (with not a lot of training). As I began to crave more (bigger roles, more high profile projects, etc.), I became aware that my process as an actor needed some filling in. At times this can be a painful process — I’m pretty impatient and it takes time and patience to go back and work in a slower and more detailed way and trust that in the end my work will be better for it.
Liz Gilbert’s words definitely gave me permission to step back and not only honor the process, but revere it. I’m a lot more ready to share my work than I was a few months ago, but most importantly, I’m feeling a lot freer in what I’m doing and a lot more willing to take risks. And that is something to celebrate!
I’m not sure if I’m completely done hibernating. And even if I am (for now), I know I can go back to it at any time. Regardless, I feel like I’m a better and stronger person for the time that I spent there.
Do you have a time in your life when you felt like you were hibernating as an artist? What was that period like for you and how did you emerge from it? I would love to hear about it! (Please leave a comment below.)