The business is hard.
At some point, you’ve probably felt this. I can almost guarantee that at some point, you will. Even the most optimistic, positive actor will have a fleeting moment of thinking, “Why isn’t this easier?”
Which Is Harder: Acting or the Business of Acting
In workshops, when actors tell me this, I clarify with them, “Is it the acting work itself, or the Business of Acting work to get jobs?”
Almost invariably, it’s the latter. The acting itself is fun! Sure, sometimes it’s a little scary or nervous-making, but for the most part, it’s fun. It’s creative. It’s imaginative. It’s a release of spirit.
“Well, how was it when you first started acting? Was it a piece of cake?”
Here, I’ll get a few different answers, based on choices mostly. The actors who went through MFAs, BFAs, drama schools or conservatory programs often tell me how punishing it was. Many days were often spent in tears. That’s how rigorous they are.
The actors who have trained through part-time classes at studios usually tell me how long, drawn-out and complicated it was.
And everyone usually finishes by saying how worth it the whole experience was. Because at the end of the day, you know how to act.
Most everything you learn how to do well can be painfully challenging at the start, near impossible some time. In fact, abandoning or giving it up is the most common choice you will consider at one point or another.
The Turning Point When Things Get Easier
When you have a specific technique or strategy to do the work, everything starts to get easier, doesn’t it?
You work your strategy, and work your plan. As long as you continue to improve and tweak as we go, the work feels a little less “like work.”
For example, I’m reminded of playing tennis as a little kid, a sport I completely love.
I was awful at it at first, easily out-aced and out-hit by the immensely taller people around me. Slowly but surely, I found my movement and my strokes. Mostly I found strategy, and everything started to change. I worked so much at it, it started to feel like play.
It was the same with my first job out of school. I was skilled at putting ideas together and making them easy to understand for people.
Writing and editing were fun. But I had never used software to put a magazine together. It felt really hard and labor intensive. Slowly but surely, that came together too.
What was this for you? Living alone? Living with some one else? A professional skill? A hobby that was impossible when you began?
You didn’t learn how to walk overnight.
However, as a toddler, you did not think, “Fine, this walking thing is really just too difficult; I will crawl around or sit for the rest of my life.” You were driven, encouraged, and hungry to walk and experience as much of the world as you could.
Walking meant you could play more.
As an adult, it’s too easy to forget this. It doesn’t even matter why. The important point is that everything can still become play with some practice and strategy.
The fear of doing things perfectly – or “right” – can trick you into focusing on the short-term. It’s what happens in the long-term that truly matters. The messy, imperfect attempts to become better teach you lesson after lesson about how to make it work best for you.
As you work to achieve your various business of acting goals, to book more work and auditions, remind yourself: Nothing has to be perfect. It just has to get done.
Done means focusing on to the long-term, what really matters. Not the urgent, but the important.
Is your goal to stay in acting class forever? I’ll bet it isn’t! Your goal is to work on set with the masters, and start working at a much higher level, learning from the greats at the same time.
You have to start somewhere.
Where you are right now is the perfect place to start. Just keep doing the work. The work always gets easier. And then, before you know, it feels like play.
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