Ahhh, the balancing act of life. Everybody has to balance the many aspects of their life, no matter whatprofession they’re in, but it may come as quite a shock to you to balance quite so many things straight out of high school. You will probably be working full time or part time, taking classes of some sort, going out to see shows, reading whatever seems interesting and relevant, looking for auditions, practising whatever needs practising, and… the rest of your life. Cleaning the house, maintaining relationships, chilling out where you can. I hate to be a party pooper but I’ve got to tell you now: as an actor, this never changes. You will ALWAYS be balancing a million things. Even if you succeed at becoming a big movie star, the balancing act will only get worse, not better. Successful actors work incredibly hard to become successful and incredibly hard to stay that way. You need to learn to work hard and smart, and learn to deal with stress and tiredness in a graceful way.
Let’s start with working hard. I’ve mentioned already that acting is emotionally, mentally, and physically strenuous. If you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ll know by now that you should be doing a little ‘practice’ each day to prepare your body and voice – but you also need to prepare your mind. You cannot afford to stress out or give up when your muscles feel sore or a director is giving you a lot of notes. If you constantly need to take time out to rest or calm down, you will get a reputation for being high maintenance, and that will severely damage your chances of getting hired again. Your attitude, whether it’s in a rehearsal, audition, or in the bar after the show, can make or break your career.
Having said that; it’s ok to get tired. It’s the way you handle it that’s important. You don’t always have to be Mary Sunshine, but you do need to keep yourself from turning into Mr Hyde (excuse the mixed metaphor). It’s essential to learn how to keep calm in a stressful situation, because there will be a lot of them. It’s worth investing some time in something like yoga, meditation, or whatever new age or old age tricks you find helpful for managing stress. My preference is yoga because it has double benefits – it also counts towards a regular physical practice!
On that note, let’s talk some more about time saving tricks that will help you work smart. There are lots of opportunities where one activity will have a number of benefits, which can halve your to-do list. For example, another relaxation technique could be to practice some breath support exercises – deep breathing and focus can help you stay calm and energised, and can also count towards your vocal practice.
My top ten time-savers
- Learning lines as part of your vocal practice (as suggested in my last blog – the stick your tongue out exercise)
- Learning lines or doing a vocal warm up while doing housework
- Recording your lines on your phone so you can listen and repeat them while you’re driving
- Reading scripts on public transport
- Reading scripts at the gym (if you don’t mind a longer, low-intensity session on the treadmill or bike)
- Humming and gentle vocal warm ups during your physical practice (low humming while you’re out running or doing yoga generally won’t bother anyone if you’re alone… maybe not so good if you’re at the gym)
- Catching up with friends while going to see a play or film
- Walk, run, or ride to class or work to eliminate gym time
- Use time on Facebook to check pages of professional companies, keep up to date on industry happenings
- Choose TV series or movies as your chill out time that are also for research
You get the general idea. Basically, whenever you are doing something mindless, you can layer on something else that will help your practice.
This is a great way to fit everything into your schedule, but just make sure you give yourself a break from it sometimes. Don’t overload yourself by doubling up every task – the goal is to make time to relax by lessening the time your other tasks take. Work efficiently, then rest efficiently. A few times a week (if not every day), make sure you schedule some time that is purely for relaxation or chilling out – and don’t cheat! Make sure your relaxation time really makes you feel relaxed – you should feel like your heartbeat is nice and slow, your breath is deep and steady, and your mind is clear. It doesn’t have to be as hard-core as meditating, but if you walk away from your chill out period and you’re not feeling chilled out, then you’ve chosen the wrong activity. (Hint: Facebook and anything on the internet will generally not make you feel chilled out – it’s hard to avoid over-stimulation when you’re on the computer. Don’t choose those sorts of activities for your chill outs.)
A fairly simple blog today: make sure you work smart and face challenges gracefully. These are qualities that will get you hired, not just because you’re great to be around, but because they will allow you to make great work without your ego getting in the way. If you can face challenges then you will continue to grow as an actor, and that will help you succeed.
Next I’ll talk a bit more about working smart: making the most out of the tools you’re already using. Like Facebook…