by Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix
The good news is, everything changes every second. The bad news is… well, you guessed it—everything changes, every second.
As actors, we’re supposed to exult in living in the moment. That’s where the feeling of aliveness comes from that hooked us on the gig in the first place.
And yet, it’s very easy to become dismayed by change.
For those who are just starting out, it can seem impossible to get a foothold on ground that’s shifting so quickly. For those who’ve been around a while—even (or especially) the “successful” ones—it can be exhausting trying to keep up. And for those who’ve stepped out of the game for a while, re-entering can feel like landing on another planet.
Since change is a constant, it behooves you to get down with it and make it your friend, rather than having it make you its you-know-what. So how do you do that?
1. Recognize that you’re already an expert at dealing with change.
This is true no matter what stage of the game you’re in. I know it’s hard to believe, but at one point, not only did not know how to get an agent (or a better agent) or which class to take first or where to find a survival job, you didn’t know how to walk, talk, drive, chew or dress yourself.
And most of us, unless we’re legacy actors (who have a whole different set of problems), weren’t always even actors. At some point, you went from being what you were to declaring yourself an actor, and then (hopefully), from the declaration to some state of actually acting. That big old hunk of gray matter in your head has gotten you through problems way more complex than most of the ones you’ll end up navigating as an actor, no matter how fragmented our crazy media landscape becomes.
When you start flipping out, either in a big or a small way, remember: you’ve done this before; it was just a slightly different application. Move slowly. Breathe. Slow down. Let your brain do its job—both the creative thinking and memory storehouse functions.
2. Trust that there is not a good way or a bad way, just your way.
When change comes in the form of a crossroads, with few and very obvious exceptions, if you’re acting from your head and your heart, it’s almost impossible to take a wrong turn.
Let’s say you’re stepping back into the river of acting after a little sojourn on the shores of civilian-hood. The commercial/theatrical/legit world is totally different! Forget that there’s less work in your (new) category; you don’t know what your category is anymore! You sense that more opportunities may lie (lay?) in producing or writing, but you can’t help but recall the wonderfulness of acting. Should you do x? Or should you do y or even z?
Trust me: there has never been a good time to be an actor. Also trust me: there has never not been a good time to do what’s closest to your heart. Should you find yourself at a turning point at any point in your career, listen to what it’s telling you. (Note: this presumes a basic understanding of your instruction manual and a passing facility with self-exploration. If you have zero experience with either, please solicit some sound guidance in doing so.)
3. At least change is something you can count on.
Yes, the commercial/theatrical/legit world is different today than it was 10 years ago, or 10 months ago. 10 weeks ago, for that matter. As long as you don’t expect it—or you—to stay the same, you’re golden.
You may get fat. You may lose your looks. You will most certainly get old. While there will almost certainly be disproportionate interest in Fresh Faces, there are other parts, other categories, other venues. Of course, even if there weren’t, it would hardly matter—all the troweled-on Baby Jane makeup in the world does not an ingénue make. You can’t stop change any more than you can turn back the clock.
But why would you want to? Think of all the excellent changes of the past 10 years. The unprecedented access to the means of production, a.k.a. digital video, high-speed Internet and YouTube. Amazing access to information, opportunities to diversify your understanding and skill set. All, for the most part, far more quickly and easily than at any point in history.
The bottom line is that, like we used to say about the weather in Chicago, if you don’t like it, don’t worry—it’ll change in five minutes.
Only if you’re doing it right, you’ll be changing so much yourself, you’ll barely have time to notice.
Questions? Compliments? Suggestions? Complaints? Email me, dagnabit!
Colleen Wainwright is a writer–speaker-layabout 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.