An Actor's Guide to Reconnecting with Your Purpose
Feeling out of touch with your passion for acting? Not sure on your direction right now? Katie Redford gives us her guide to reconnecting to the fire in your belly...
Has anyone else watched one of those motivational videos on YouTube? You know the ones with clips of random members of the public staring out at sunsets or star fishing into waterfalls, and then all of a sudden, some beaten, withered guy in a boxing ring pops up, telling us never to give up…? Yep, me too. And one of the problems I have with those videos is that I’ve found the general message behind them to be that all you need to make your dreams happen is passion. Once you feel the passion to do something, everything else will follow. According to user967*.
Well user967*, I appreciate that, but what if you’re struggling to feel any passion and therefore need to reconnect with it again? How does that work? Let’s take acting, for example. It can be tricky to keep the passion feeling fully charged when it seems like the only opportunities that are landing in your inbox are those from Groupon (No Groupon. I don’t want to go paint-balling; I want a job). It’s easy to feel disconnected from something from which you may not be seeing consistent results. So, here are some suggestions that I hope will help you reconnect and get you feeling all fired up again.
Lose yourself in someone else’s story; whether that’s watching a play/film, listening to a podcast or reading a book, etc. Radio 4's Desert Island Discs interviews usually do it for me. Not to sound sinister, but my favourite guests are the ones who have genuinely struggled to get where they are. Not just actors but anyone who knows how it feels to truly graft at something. I really enjoy hearing stories that include soul-destroying part-time jobs, periods of doubt and mistakes that were made along the way. Their success seems far more commendable after I’ve heard all of that. On another note, I actually had to turn off a podcast recently due to an actress being asked what’s the longest amount of time she’d ever been out of work for. Her reply was “Three months.” I’m sorry, what? THREE months? I can’t even…
Whatever you choose to immerse yourself in, commit to taking the time out to do it and escape from the outside world (Basically, turn off your phone. Everyone will still be there when you turn it back on). The world in which we live is full of constant distractions so schedule that much needed time out and do whatever it is you need to do to find some connection again.
Use each another
There are tons of us ready and waiting for an opportunity to bring a character or a piece of text to life. Yes, of course we all want it to be the casting director that asks us to do that, but in the meantime, why don’t you ask? Get your mates, get hold of a play or some sort of script and bring something - anything - to life.
That’s what a friend of mine started doing. He hosts weekly play readings from his living room. Every week, him and his friends choose a play, they cast one other in the parts and get together every Tuesday evening to bring it to life. Sometimes what we need is already there, staring us right in the face.
We’ve all got access to plays, we’ve all got access to living rooms and we’ve all got access to actors (Hopefully. Otherwise, get some new mates). I know it’s rubbish when you don’t have any work lined up. I know it’s bleak when you’re not sure where your next income is coming from. But we have no control over who gets the job so try not to waste negative energy on feeling frustrated by all of that. Invest your energy into the things we can control; the material we open ourselves up to, the people we surround ourselves with and the activities we choose to do in our down time.
Conjure up your vision
Being able to have a clear vision of whatever it is we’re passionate about can really help us reconnect with it. Nowadays, the term would be referred to as positive visualisation but in the good old days, I just knew it as daydreaming.
At school, I was told off for doing it on a regular basis by my teacher Mr Prentice. I used to sit and daydream about the sets I’d like to work on and the theatres I wanted to take a bow in. It was obvious that I was in my own world as he once got so frustrated with me that I was made to stand up in assembly and apologise to everyone for ‘being away with the fairies.’ And actually now, I don’t think I daydream enough.
It usually sorts me right out, especially when I’m listening to music, so I can get really dramatic about it. Daydreaming about what I want not only helps me stay on track but it’s simple escapism. It helps me reconnect. It always surprises me when people who seem down hearted about the lack of work - when asked what sort of work they would like to do - don’t have a detailed answer. What exactly would you love to do?
Simply being aware of this could help with creating a clearer sense of direction for you. For instance, if you knew you wanted to do more comedy, you’d know it’d be a good idea to go to gigs, look at comedy workshops, simply watch more comedy in your downtime. This will help ignite the enthusiasm and therefore build that connection again.
Be as vivid and clear as you can about knowing what you want. I’m all about the Mood Board. These are collages consisting of images that you’d like in your future and that inspire or motivate you. Now, I know it sounds wishy washy but some of the highest achievers around the world encourage this task. I actually have to hide mine when people come round, as I got carried away and cut the head off a very well-known woman and replaced it with mine. (I do not wish her any harm, I was just trying to be as clear as I could.) And if it’s any consolation, I don’t reckon she’d mind that I’d decapitated her for the sake of my mood board; she comes across pretty cool. On the other hand, I do think my boyfriend thinks I’ve lost the plot. He came home that evening and asked why this well-known woman’s head was in our bin. I did explain but he’s not convinced and seems a bit petrified by the whole thing. Each to their own.
What’s the point in pursuing anything without that fire in our bellies? Surely, it’s a far more enjoyable journey to be on when we’re connected to the path we’re on? Anyway, enough from me. Go and get away with those fairies. (Sorry Mr Prentice.)
Katie is an actress and writer originally from Nottingham. Since playing the role of 'Carrot 2' in the local amdram's version of Jack and the Beanstalk, she's never looked back. She currently plays Beth in BBC 1's Still Open All Hours and Lily Pargetter in BBC Radio 4's The Archers. She was also a member on the BBC Comedy Writersroom.