We just got back from a little vacation and today was the first day back to school for my kids. The amount of anxiety in my home was palpable. They were worrying they had not done all of the homework that had been sent with us (they had not)….worrying they were going to have to catch up (yes they were). However, because we were still on eastern time, we woke up early. I kept repeating that if they would just stop fretting and take the opportunity to do some work, the anxiety would go away. And, sure enough, it did (and they went to school with confidence, turning everything on time, to boot).
If you've worked with me, you've probably heard me say, " Anxiety lives in in-action".
You see, our brains are wired to protect us, and anxiety is a big tool that our brains use to stop us from doing anything new or scary. Anxiety thrives in the moments before action. I think about my time as a young actress standing in the stage wings waiting for my cue. My nerves were never as thick and pounding as they were in the moments before….where there was nothing else to do but wait and wonder if I was going to be alright....if I was going to miss a line....if I was going to make a fool of myself....if I had rehearsed enough.....and on, and on, and on. My brain was trying to protect me from taking that next "scary" step into the unknown. Once I took the step onto the stage and began to speak, all of it disappeared. When you are in motion, your brain shifts focus from trying to protect you to managing the action at hand. That new focus drives out anxiety because there just isn’t time or room to focus on both.
When an actor comes to me to share an acute worry about their business, I suspect that they are in that place of in-action. Whether it is between gigs...or it’s the slow season...or their brand is simply not in “fashion” at the moment...or they are having trouble committing to a decision....I know that they are in the abyss of in-action, waiting for the unknown to make itself known. It’s one of the hardest parts of being an actor….the waiting for opportunity. It can feel powerless and defeating. But...there is work to be done. And the danger of sitting in that space, is that it can become a crutch for avoidance.
So, how do we move past it and make it work FOR us? That anxious feeling and the thoughts of self-doubt can actually become your cue to get into action. What CAN you do? What CAN you work on? What CAN you create?
From a training perspective, the slow times are the best times pursue class and community. That is the time to woodshed and prepare for the next busy season. From a marketing perspective, there is always something to update or share. And with social media, there are many ways to keep your name/marketing at the top of mind. From a business perspective, find an accountability partner, set goals and support each other to achieve them. Check in on one another and push each other…always nudging away from complaint and excuse and into action. From a creative perspective….don’t wait….write for yourself, film for yourself, release material for yourself. Collaborate with like-minded artists, learn how to put your vision together and leverage your own work.
It might sound crazy simple, but sit down....right now....yes, right now...and MAKE A LIST OF ACTIONS that you can take in your creative career. Now, get crackin’. Commit to crossing out one or two things on the list everyday for a week, and see how that feels. Here’s a tip: Pick the one thing on your list that you most want to avoid, and do that first. You'll feel accomplished and won’t waste all that energy constantly thinking about it and negotiating with yourself about not doing it. Once that's done, you'll be free up to tackle the easier/more fun stuff with gusto.
Registration for the next Business of Acting Class will open next month. We discuss strategies on how to choose action in order to continue making progress at any time. You can find more info in “Upcoming Classes and Events”. I’d love to have you join us!