Actors spend their lives experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and physical traits of the characters they play. Add to that the audition process: a regular routine of having to prove these characters can live believably to an audience. Admitting you need a break can sometimes feel like a betrayal of what actors are raised to believe about their career choice. Actors tend to be very hard on themselves. They push themselves harder to experience as many opportunities as possible, feel a sense of allegiance to the craft, and love of the art that can make them feel as if they are almost betraying something sacred by admitting they need to press pause. This feeling can then sometimes be misinterpreted as being uninspired. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between just needing a break or having lost the desire to ever do the work again.
So if you’re feeling uninspired, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Has it been a long time in between jobs? Actors need to act. Too long between jobs can make anyone, not just actors, feel detached from what they love to do and what they know they do well. Actors will begin to define themselves by the audition process, not the work. Auditioning is not the whole of the career, and actors need to be careful of feeling like their entire creative life is wrapped up in their audition life. If it’s been more auditions than jobs, it could be a time to do more in the classroom, write and produce your own short film, put together a play reading, or engage in another creative source that allows you to indulge in characters and stories. In addition, this creative work will make your auditions better. Stay acting, but commit where you can to something other than just auditioning.
2. Are you feeling like approaching a new script is an uphill climb? Moving to the next project after several big character developments or some really tough class work can feel sometimes like more work and not as much of the fun explorative process. This can be even more true when the characters you have played have been particularly difficult or emotionally exhausting. Be aware of what you are putting your heart, mind, and body through, and plan breaks from that work so you can have the strength for the next audition and next job.
3. Is the rejection starting to take its toll? All creativity aside, being told no is never fun. Being told no as many times as actors are told no in their lives can really have long-lasting effects. Keeping perspective can be difficult sometimes. If a person was rejected in their personal life as often as an actor experiences it in their professional life, they would have a hard time staying inspired to keep going. Chances are that person hasn’t lost the desire for acceptance, just the will to keep asking for it. Very often, a break or change in daily experiences can help alleviate this. Keeping a strong support group around you who can feed your life in other ways or having hobbies, other interests, and creative outlets that validate your self-worth are extremely important. Being told no is part of the deal, but how you manage the no is your choice.
It’s important to remember that there is no shame in feeling down or worrying about the next day of this journey. You need to remember that you are asking a lot of yourself to do this full time. You have to create a life that supports more than just that part of the journey. Be kind to yourself, listen to your heart, mind, and body, and be open to going through some type of evaluation process every so often. Do not have expectations of yourself imposed by the culture of the acting industry; have your own personal expectations of yourself you live by. Keep your commitments, and know that sometimes you won’t feel like it, but you will do it anyway because not every day is great, but you chose to do this because you know in your heart you never wanted to commit to anything else in this way.