I have been an artist all my life, but declared my commitment to being an artist when I was 21 years old. I changed my major in college to Creative Writing and didn’t look back.
I spent the next 20 years believing art was Art. Art equals God. It was more important to do great art than to be happy. I embraced the idea of having a dark side and using it. I threw myself into art without precautions.
Other artists, far more famous, have also done this. Most of them died young.
I didn’t really want to do that.
I eventually made the decision to put me and my happiness/serenity as number one on the list, and art second, or maybe third, after my relationships. I was at least 40.
Now, maybe you’re not insanely passionate and idealistic. But I find this whole mystique about “living the dream” or “following my dream” a little ironic. Here’s the irony: the more life you live, the deeper you allow experience to cut into you, the more present and varied your experiences, the more innovative and creative and rich your acting, writing, or other art becomes.
Acting is a job. I LOVE acting, but it is a job. Whether it supports me right now or not. An acting career is a job in an intensely competitive industry with a high failure rate. It’s not a dream. Or better, it’s not a fantasy.
I forget this on a regular basis. Then I remind myself and return to some version of sane.
I write this because I find I am most successful in acting when I have my feet on the ground, and I aim my passion at what I truly want in acting and art; and I balance that passion with what I truly want in life….interests, fun, deep and satisfying relating, nature, spirituality, fun, and let me say again, fun.
I listen to my students talk about acting, and I listen to myself. I listen to my colleagues, and I listen to people who are very successful. Passion for the art form, idealizing what it is, is more common early on. Consistent effort over time, thinking like both an artist and a business person, wins success. Knowing that it’s a job. Knowing that life is not just your job, and you shouldn’t sacrifice so much for your job that you are left empty outside it.
You will glad to be alive if your life is rich. And then you can bring that to your acting, and your acting will be rich. It will be more you, and there will be more of you to offer.
Love your life. Then love acting.
That’s the real job.