There’s something that’s been on my mind lately. And by lately, I mean the better part of the last year. I’ve tried blogging about it, I’ve talked to close friends and family about it, I’ve even composed a lengthy tweet thread that will forever live in the drafts folder. I wasn’t sure how this was ever going to come out or if it would ever come out. It’s a bit controversial and my fear is/was that most people who read what I’m about to write, aren’t going to get it. This may not resonate with some of you, or any of you.
Lucky for all of us, I’ve reached a phase in my life where I don’t give a fork what anyone thinks or says about my thoughts or words. So, here it goes.
My big thesis statement: Artists, we have got to stop telling each other that pursuing our art is “hard”.
When I decided to become an actor and pursue this industry professionally the overwhelming response was, “Wow, that’s so hard!” or “What are you going to do for money?” or “Only a few people succeed” or “What’s your plan b?”. If you’re an artist of any kind, you’ve probably heard some version of this daily for most of your professional life.
These words usually come from very well meaning people. That’s their way of showing support. Support for artists seems to always come with a caveat. “That’s amazing you’ve chosen such a hard career path with very little guarantee of success! I would never do that because I live in the real world and value my sense of security, but good for you, little dreamer!”
Society continues to push the narrative that finding success in your art is “hard” and “unrealistic”. And most of the artists I know, including myself, we buy into it.
We’re told from the very beginning that we won’t make any money, so our goal becomes finding a job that doesn’t interfere with auditions and the occasional booking. That results in soul-sucking day jobs that leave very little time and desire for the art we love. We’re always “hustling”, which leads to burnout, addiction, chronic illnesses, depression, etc. We’re set up for failure. And it’s not because the industry is “too hard”. It’s because we believe people when they tell us that.
I set out on a great experiment this year. After months and months of talk therapy and a form of hypnotherapy I found through a company called “To Be Magnetic”, I decided that I was done with the “this is hard” narrative. I unpacked why that narrative no longer served me, whose narrative it actually was (spoiler alert: it wasn’t mine), and I replaced it with an abundance of self-worth and a deeply rooted belief in what I have to offer as an artist. I saved up some money and I quit all of my day jobs. I told myself the only work I would accept this year is acting, writing, or both.
And it worked. I’ve had the most successful year I’ve ever had as an artist. I’ve booked more, substantial work, I’ve had more auditions, I’ve written more things I’m proud of, I’ve taken big leaps forward personally and professionally. For the first time in my 15 year pursuit, I feel successful. And the only thing I changed was my mindset.
Now, that’s not to say, it’s all been perfect. It’s actually been quite messy. And scary. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I’ve questioned this decision at least a hundred times. I’ve seriously had to sit with myself to make sure I haven’t just completely lost my mind. I mean, this morning, I called my mom crying because I haven’t had an audition in weeks and that scares me.
So, I guess my point is that, yeah, this shit is scary, but hard? No. Not hard.
It requires an incredible amount of trust. Trust in yourself and trust in what is meant to be. It requires so much less “doing” and absolutely zero “hustling”. It requires surrender. It requires immense support from your closest people (big high fives to my mom, my sister, and my grandma for being by my side this year). And it requires an abundance of self-love, which is probably the scariest part.
You’ve got to sit with yourself. You’ve got to figure out why you love making art. You’ve got to get rid of anything that doesn’t support that love. You’ve got to know yourself so well that when the scary bumps in the road appear you’re brave enough to not just move through them, but feel them as you go. You’ve got to know who you are and you have to love that person in a way that only you can.
And that’s what makes this easy. The love you have for yourself makes everything easy. Auditions come and go, opportunities flow in and out, one minute you’re in the spotlight, the next you’re on your couch eating an alarming amount of red licorice. But, the one constant thing that’s always there is how you feel about yourself. So, make sure that feeling is love, and the rest will come, easily.