An Actor's Guide to Surviving January
Jesus, I’m craving another Lindor. And a job.
Happy New Year, actors!
I had this image in my mind that I’d wake up on the first day of 2017 and start as I meant to go on; go for a run, sip green tea and write a goals list for the year ahead. When in actual fact, I woke up so hungover that I barely remembered my own name, had a flashback of me rugby tackling my brother’s new (shy) girlfriend into the sofa, and had a great big helping of that familiar feeling that hits me every New Year's Day; The Fear Of The Unknown. So I just hibernated, watched Jonathan Creek and continued where I left off with the Lindors. Productive start to 2017.
So, if that feeling of uncertainty about the year ahead is alarming you and you’re feeling a little lost, or a tad unmotivated, read on. We’re all in this together. Like one big, self employed, ‘No-we-haven’t-been-asked-to-do-Strictly-yet’ family.
Embrace the silence
Ok kids. It’s January. It’s a quiet month. Unless you’re incredibly fortunate, your agent probably won’t call. But you’re going to be fine, because you’re going to just embrace it.
Last year, January started off utterly dismally and my job, house and relationship all vanished within days of the new year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the positive visualisation but no amount of picturing my favourite sunset and buddha chants could hurl me out of those January blues. My Mum’s words of wisdom didn’t seem to do much good either.
Me: I hate being homeless.
Mum: Carol’s daughter, Claire, she’s an actress and she’s been living on friends' sofas for about 8 years now. She’s 35. Still not married. And she’s been in Casualty.”
During a deadly silent patch, you have two options:
- You mull over how quiet it is/how poor you are and let it destroy every fibre in your body.
- Or, you embrace it.
(Which is very much the harder option of the two.)
So last year, I gave the second choice my best shot. And instead of worrying about how quiet it was, I started to feel quite present. For example, my 87 year old Nan joined Facebook and would update her status’ with things like “Sheila is watching Cash In The Attic.” It would brighten my day instantly. I wonder if I’d have noticed things like that last year when I’d had a busy period. I’d take myself on random walks and watch the sun go down. How many people have the freedom to do that? Yeah, ok, those people may have an actual house to live in but compared to watching a sunset on a random Wednesday afternoon? Winning. Plus, I had bags of time to look for a new bedroom, which I soon found, so didn’t need to stay in Hotel la Ford Fiesta after all.
So, walk where you’ve never walked before, read that novel you’ve been meaning to, go and watch a matinee. This is the time to do it all, because this quiet patch won’t last forever; nothing lasts forever. And that my friend, is as bitter as it is sweet.
Don’t take it personally
Congratulations on surviving Christmas, which was probably full of questions from family members such as, 'Have you thought about trying for EastEnders?' So, I reckon you’ll all nail this one. Whilst back home, around the dinner table on Christmas day, I was having a chat with my Auntie when she blurts out:
Auntie: “Have you got a cut off age? You know, for the acting stuff?"
Auntie: *scrunches up her face.* "It must be so hard."
Me: *Downs the rest of my proscecco.*
Auntie: "So, you don’t have a plan B?"
Me: "Plan B?" *throws my head back, laughing* "This is my plan B, C, D, all the way to Z."
Yeah, no, I didn’t say that. I just continued to drink. But I heard Will.I.Am say it on The Voice and I loved it so much, I thought I’d nick it.
People ask questions like this because they’re fascinated (well, that's what I’m telling myself anyway). We are living a life that’s slightly alien to others. A life without stability, without financial reassurance, no week ever being the same. A life full of variety, full of stories, full of absolute bloody courage. So, however you wish to tackle those questions, just have a confidence within you that you know deep down how bloody brave and brilliant you are to pursue such a soul-destroying yet insanely magical industry. Go you.
There are 168 hours in a week. Say, you sleep for 8 hours a night so that leaves us with 112 hours. Be honest with yourself right now (and you don’t have to tell anyone the answer to this). How many hours out of those 112(ish) per week, would you say you put aside to concentrate on furthering your career? Things like going to an acting class, an accent workshop, contacting directors whose work you’ve seen and would love to work with?
It’s easy to feel like we have little control over what happens to us in this industry but one of the things we do have control over is managing our time productively. Take advantage of the quiet patch in January…
- Book yourself on to a class/workshop. Have a look at what Spotlight, The Actors Centre, The Actors Guild, have on offer. I know certain classes can be pricey but one isn’t going to break the bank.
- Look after your body. (I am aware I’ve just been banging on about inhaling Lindors but it was Christmas). Do whatever floats your boat; the gym, running, swimming, pole dancing. Your body is your business and you need to fuel it. You want to be feeling as confident as possible when the phone does ring calling you in for that last minute audition.
- Keep your goals in mind. Write down three things you’re adamant to achieve by the end of the year and how you’re going to go about doing so. I got carried away and came up with 22, then felt overwhelmed and reached for the Lindors again. So be realistic.
Find something else
Do something else. Whether it’s learning a new language or signing up to a day course in something random. I’ve just booked on to a cushion making course. I don’t even think making cushions appeals to me but I do know that meeting new people and learning something completely new does.
Just have something else to focus on. Sign up to something that scares you. I’ve decided to try and find pleasure from other things now. Acting will always bring me a thrill that nothing else quite compares to, however, that’s when I’m working. I want to enjoy the time when I’m not working and if that answer is to be found in a cushion (that I’ve only gone and bloody made myself) then so be it.
Be lovely to yourself
Over Christmas, I was clearing out the junk in my old bedroom and suddenly, what can only be described as the biggest teddy bear you have ever seen, fell out of the wardrobe. Honestly, it was massive. Like an actual human. He wasn’t even cute, he was terrifying.
Me: "Mum, what the hell is this?"
Mum: "That’s Barney."
Mum: "Yeah. I won him in a raffle. We’re saving it for the grandchildren. So, hurry up."
Firstly, even if I gave her grandchildren, I wouldn’t let them near big fat Barney. They’d be traumatised. Secondly, I can’t even afford an ASDA big shop at the minute, let alone another human. I’m now at the age where a lot of my friends are settling down. Marriage, babies, mortgages (LOL at the last one.) And it’s so easy to feel left behind with all of this and think about the negatives rather than the positives. And that positive thinking, I believe, comes from being lovely to yourself. The amount of rejection we’re faced with on a daily basis is not the best confidence boost. I will not cry into my Cheerios in 2017 because ‘that life-changing part didn’t go my way.’ So, if you’d like to, be kind to yourself by including the following:
- Lush bath bombs. They brighten up the dullest of days.
- Have an emergency Malteser bunny on you at all times. (Or a Lindor. God, I really should work for them.)
- When you’re having one of those days, remind yourself how brave and brilliant you are. And that every single one of us have them. Even those of us in work.
- Go and see a matinee. Turn your phone off, lose yourself in it and inspire yourself silly. Tell yourself all the way home, whilst drinking a stupidly expensive coffee that you can’t afford, that you will be on that stage one day.
- Watch Will.I.Am’s pep talk on The Voice.
So, I’ll wrap it up now and leave this with you:
Change is good/scary/necessary.
What will be, will be.
No good whatsoever can come from eating Lindors.
Katie Redford is an actress & writer originally from Nottingham, now based in London. She recently won BBC Comedy Writersroom and has also just joined the cast of Radio 4's The Archers. When she's not in work, you can find her in the soft play centre in Epsom where she takes the children she nannies for, so she doesn't have to do any actual work.
Photo credit: Jo McLintock