What to do when you’re lost, stuck, dazed and confused
Frustrated? Exhausted? Unmotivated? Dispassionate? Defeatist? Lost, stuck, dazed and confused?
Feel like life is a big stack of brick walls, and every time you try to climb over, the walls get taller, and thicker, and rougher, and slippery, and you suddenly feel like you’re trapped in a Japanese Game show? And no matter how hard you try, you keep falling back down, or manage to balance on a tiny ledge which is slowly crumbling beneath your feet? Oh, and there’s also hundreds of people watching you and laughing at you, your family, your friends, colleagues, your dog, and everyone else you’ve ever met?
This is the stuff of nightmares, and yet, it’s something actors come up against, myself included, almost every day.
I want to start by saying, I’m not a guru. I don’t have a magic pill. I don’t even have a surefire, step-by-step method to creative success. All I’ve got are ideas, and tips, and I thought I ought to share them with you guys, in the hopes that it might help just a teeny bit. So here goes…
Ask for help
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. This can be professional, medical, or just in your friendship circle. Reach out.
I am a big advocate for Therapy / Psychology – it only helps to understand more about how your mind and body work, and to get professional advice. If that’s not your jam, then reach out to a mentor. Mentors can be anyone, there are no rules here. A previous acting coach, a director you’ve worked with before, a fellow actor, or just someone with some experience in the industry and perspective. (I don’t recommend reaching out to agents, casting directors, producers or people you’ve never met.)
Build yourself a community of creative, passionate people. You can all help each other climb the brick walls and get through the Japanese Game Show experience together. Kind of like the StageMilk community – we’re made up of actors and creatives from all over the world, who are passionate about the craft, and we’re always here for each other.
Reach out to a friend, get lunch together, and help each other out. Talk it through, but don’t stop there. It’s not about complaining, and dumping all your problems on to someone else, for them to deal with, it’s about working through it as well. And don’t leave until you’ve reached some conclusions and found a solution together (or until the cafe closes, whichever comes first).
Do the Artist’s Way (or some variation of)
Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way, is a mental and spiritual practice to help you find, and rediscover your creative self. I’ve done it, and I’m still doing it. I definitely recommend grabbing the book, and giving it a shot. In a nutshell, doing the Artist’s Way is about implementing a daily practice into your creative life, to help those juices flow. For me, it has reduced my anxious tendencies surrounding the work, there is no room for procrastination, and also improves workflow.
If you’re not up for the Artist’s Way – it is a big commitment, so it’s okay to wait until the Christmas holidays, or until work slows down a bit if you need, you can still implement a creative practice into your daily life. I’m no therapist, so here are some ideas, and you can find what works for you:
- Write it out – Each day, set aside some time to write down everything you feel, love, hate, despise, admire, think, want, need. You can literally write anything, whatever comes to your mind. I recommend doing it old fashioned – pen to paper.
- Walk it out – I sit at the computer all day writing articles, managing social media channels, answering emails, making lists, editing videos, and photos – take 20 minutes out, and go for a stroll. Get the blood moving, listen to some music, get away from the computer screen and let your mind wander. My most creative moments are usually when I’m walking, or driving, not when I’m hunched over my laptop massaging my temples trying to come up with the next best article.
- Meditate – 2 minutes every day, is better than 1 hour every week. Dedicate some time each day to quietening the mind, relaxing the body, and simply breathing.
- Yoga – (I’m pretty sure we are all aware of the physical, psychological and creative benefits to yoga.)
Find your inspiration
This is probably my favourite one. Go see films and plays, read books, read scripts. Remember that feeling when you watch an incredible film at the Cinema, and you come out feeling all light and floaty? There are tears in your eyes during the credits, not because it was necessarily a sad film, but because of the sense of yearning you feel. A yearning to create, make a film, tell a story and share it. Take yourself to a foreign film festival, check out some documentaries, and seek to be inspired. Maybe take a break from Marvel, Disney, and other studio films – immerse yourself in the independent world for the next little while.
If you feel really unmotivated to pick up a book, then literally force yourself to. Set an alarm, make yourself sit down, put a book in your lap, and open it. The resistance will ease off once you start turning pages. Also, have a notebook nearby. Most of the time when I’m reading, I have a notepad open next to me. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I write notes. Books are full of ideas, and I want them to soak in, and be able to revisit them.
Go back to school
Learning always ignites my passion and feeds my curiosity. Get back into acting class, do a masterclass, go to drama school, and if that’s not possible, study online or get together with friends and work on things in a group. The main thing is finding some accountability, and a space to be creative and learn.
Whatever you do, get back into the work, get back into the curiosity. Challenge yourself, and work to overcome those challenges. Sometimes we think challenges make us feel more inadequate, but it can actually reinvigorate you, and spur you into action. Suddenly you have a goal – to be the best version of yourself, to break a record, to get some good feedback, to make connections, to overcome the challenge and take it to the next level.
Take a break
I’m not great at doing this, but take a break. Go away for a couple days, go away for a couple months, travel, spend time with your family. This doesn’t mean you should completely put your creativity aside, that’s probably impossible anyway, but it’s just giving yourself the space and relaxation. If you’re travelling, you might find inspiration in art, culture, environment, the people. If you’re spending time with family, you might feel supported, comfortable and relaxed. If you’re simply taking a break from work, you’ll have more time to sleep, relax, meditate – implement that daily creative practice I was talking about before! Whatever you do, stay open, and hit the reset button.
Change of scene
Move to a new house, move across the country, move to a new cafe, rearrange your bedroom. As creatures of habit, we get stuck in routines and schedules. A change of scene is conducive to releasing those creative juices and getting some clarity. Sometimes we get so used to our everyday lives, we feel stuck, unmotivated, frustrated and definitely not creative. Something as small as flipping your mattress, to spending Christmas in Germany, can really allow you to find your creativity again. Put yourself somewhere else, somewhere new, and see where it takes you and how it inspires you.
Simplify your life. Think about everything that is cluttering up your world. I like to get a big piece of A3 paper, and on it, I write only the things I want in my life for the next 3 months. And everything that I don’t put on there, I simply get rid of. I might realise that I’ve taken on a job which I don’t enjoy, and don’t need to do – so I get rid of it.
Same goes for objects. If you feel weighed down by the sheer amount of bric-a-brac in your room, or house, then do a clean out. Some people like the mess, and need a bit of chaos to be creative – that’s totally fine. For others, a clean, fresh space can do wonders for their creativity.
Find some accountability
Accountability! Arguably one of the most effective ways to work creatively. You can create it for yourself, by setting dates and deadlines on your calendar, but ultimately, you need someone or something else to make sure you stick to it. Otherwise, the deadlines keep getting nudged back, and before you know it, it’s 2019 and your short film script is gathering dust in a desk draw. You can find accountability with your mates, with a mentor, in a classroom, or with a specific project. We all know how easy it is to meet deadlines, when you really have to. Like when your license has to be renewed by the 31st of August, you will definitely get down to the RTA and renew your license. Or when you have an audition coming up next Tuesday 10:15am – you’ll work on that script so when Tuesday 10:15am comes around, you’re ready to go (at least, I hope that’s what everyone’s doing…) Make accountability a part of your life. Actively seek deadlines and schedules, and look forward to it.
Because of this magic word, accountability, me and the team at StageMilk decided to build a whole new initiative around it. StageMilk Drama Club was literally designed to get actors off their butts, and into the work on a regular basis. The idea is to join a community, learn more about the craft, submit work, get feedback on it, and all of this comes with guidance along the way. We launched the 1st of November, and we’d love to have you join us on the road to creative fulfilment and becoming a better actor.
I hope some of my ideas, have sparked even more ideas for you. Don’t delay, get back on the road, rediscover your creative self and leave behind that lost, stuck, dazed and confused lifestyle. Good luck!
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