Here’s your much needed reminder about acting, life, and whatever you might be going through today: Nobody has life solved, nobody has it perfect. It’s always, ALWAYS, a work in progress, and you’re always figuring shit out. It doesn’t matter if you’re Meryl Streep, Bradley Cooper, or just who you are now in your own skin.
When we are first learning how to do this thing called acting, often our only frame of reference are these amazing finished works that look beautiful and effortless, and we think the folks who made them are superhuman talent magnets with perfect instincts and even more perfect teeth. What we forget, what we don’t see, is the process that brought this amazing work into existence.
You aren’t seeing the progress. The false starts and the coming aparts and the stuff on the cutting room floor. The stuff that doesn’t work. And that’s the lesson we all need to get into our bones if we are going to live successful, fulfilled creative lives: the process is more important than the result.
As artists, and specifically as actors, we are only responsible for being as truthful and honest as we can possibly be. The finished product of a film or tv show or piece of theatre has so many moving parts over which you as an actor have no control. Whether the cute guy in your class thinks you’re cute, too, is not in your control. The tragedies in the world that play out almost daily on our news feeds are not in your control.
When we fail to remember that truth, we open the door to anxiety, self-judgement, and despair. We feel like failures. We start to give up. Even something as ridiculous as Instagram can be a source of dismay. If you find yourself comparing your actual life to the photoshopped ones you see on your social media, you’re going to lose basically every time. I sometimes look back at my own posts and think, wow, I wish I had that guy’s life. It’s all a ridiculous illusion, and yet, if we give into it, it has the power to make us feel awful.
Sometimes, those feelings are unavoidable, even and especially if you are engaging in the process and letting go of your sense of control over the result. The reason it’s called a risk is because there is a very real chance that this thing you are trying to do or make or become might not work.
Even the most positive outcome can also mean that in the short term, something fails, falls apart. But when we realize that something not working out or going according to plan is not the end of the world, we begin taking risks more often. It becomes a habit. It becomes a way of life. Taking more risks becomes, wait for it…a process.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have it all together. You may totally wipe out. Just remember that making mistakes doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path. It just means you’re on the path. Period.