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Colleenby Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix

Performing an attitudinal reboot

Into even the most fabulous, most self-actualized of lives, a little rain must fall. Here’s what to do when it does, and the show must go on.

While we mostly like to stick to the nuts-and-bolts, mechanical aspects of managing your actor-business here at Act Smart! (marketing! business development! fun stuff to read!), we also recognize that when the chief asset of your business is a complicated and sensitive piece of human machinery, sometimes getting your head right is Business Task #1. (If you have ever experienced the special hell that is going to a commercial audition for, say, a theme park or soft drink in the midst of a hellish breakup, you know whereof I speak.)

Important disclaimer!: the following are methods I have used for passing blues (or even some bouts of the “mean reds“), and are not a solution for clinical depression or other mood disorders. If you have a serious, trenchant problem, please get real, medical help for it.

This also works for stuff like excessive nervousness (although, again, not clinical anxiety), and best of all, it is incredibly simple: just two parts! Ready? Here goes…

1. Move towards what leaves you feeling good.

Please, right now, while you’re feeling good, start a list: “Stuff I Feel Awesome After Doing.”

It may or may not include such items as: petting shaggy dogs; riding my bike; hiking the canyons; singing to my favorite iTunes playlist while walking a windy beach; helping your elderly neighbor with her groceries; calling your (real, honest-and-true, has-your-back) best friend; and so on.

Have things on there that are big (i.e. time-consuming, involved, expensive) and small. Keep the list somewhere you cannot lose it, like your phone. For extra points, let the real, honest-and-true bestie know some of these things, so s/he can remind you if you lose the list and have to call (although if it’s on your phone….)

It is helpful to have a few E-Z, tips-‘n’-tricks ways of rebooting on the list. I don’t particularly enjoy meditating (yet), but it does the job pretty reliably and relatively quickly. I don’t do my Nei Kung regularly anymore, but I know that “horse stance” is waiting for me when I need it.

The important distinction here is that we’re trying to identify things that leave a lasting effect of “happy” in their wake. If they feel good in the moment, too, so much the better. But it’s the after-effect that’s important. This, handily enough, brings us to the second part of this simple, two-step plan:

2. Move away from what leaves you feeling bad.

While I totally get the delicious, temporary joy to be had from consuming stuff that tastes good, at 52 years I’m even more aware of the price paid for even the smallest “bad” indulgence when you’re already down.

When you’re feeling good, and provided you can handle it constitutionally, an argument can be made for toxins like sugar, intoxicants, a little friendly Facebook-stalking, or reading the tabloid blogs. When you’re already down, though—or even if you’re teetering on the edge—you want to give all of these things a wide berth. The hole you fall into after indulging in “innocent” gossip or a flat of cupcakes takes far longer to climb out of than the fleeting pleasure of indulgence brings.

At a class, this might mean changing your seat. At an audition, this might mean sitting alone, or even excusing yourself to the bathroom or a brief, head-clearing walk “back to the car.” If anyone asks what’s up, you can always respond with “just mixing it up!”—or, my new-favorite response, absolutely nothing (with or without mysterious smile).

If you’re anything like me, it will probably take you longer to become aware of all the items on your downer list than your mood-enhancement list; human beings—especially some of us—have an impressive capacity for denial. But the bonus-extra of all this work is that it will make you a better actor as well as a more serene human being.

So prepare for the eventuality of feeling horrible as diligently—and cheerfully—as you would an audition: the you-of-the-future who is going through the bummer di tutti bummers will thank you when they can feel the pain and do the scene/audition/shift anyway.

* * *

(Future) Book of the MonthSelf-Management for Actors is one of the best books I’ve ever read on acting-as-a-business. It’s extremely well researched, no-nonsense, and compulsively readable—its author, casting director and longtime actors’ advocate Bonnie Gillespie, came to show business with both an advanced degree and working background in journalism.  It’s also generous—i.e., NOT a book you want to drop on your toes. Or will, once you are the proud owner of a Fourth Edition. That’s right, SMFA is going into its fourth—and, most likely, final—incarnation. This one will incorporate info on dealing with the complex changes—and cashing in on the new opportunities—that the new-media landscape has wrought. In keeping with the times, she and her team are crowdfunding the new edition, so you can get other fantastic perks along with (or even instead of, if you’re weird) your copy. I’ve already pre-ordered my hard copy—while I love the convenience of ebooks, I really, really like highlights, margin notes, and sticky notes!

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-doodler who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.