What if you reach your goal, achieve your wildest dreams and you still feel the same? Shouldn’t you feel differently? Better? Awesome? Well, that’s not always the case. Just because you booked the part, shot the scene, got some recognition or a great new agent, doesn’t mean you will suddenly feel like a whole new person. But, the goal is to feel confident inside no matter what happens in your career.
Speaking of confidence, there’s a Martha Graham quote I love that always comes to mind when I’m working with a disheartened actor. It’s a conversation between Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham after Agnes’ big debut in Oklahoma on Broadway from her book “Dance to the Piper”. This is a long quote, but bare with me, the best part is at the very end! (Martha’s words are bolded):
“The work wasn’t good enough. All changed, all passed. There was no way of ensuring lasting beauty. Verily, I wrote in water and judging my work with a dreadful dispassionate vision, perhaps it was as well. I spoke to Martha Graham on the pavement outside of Schrafft’s restaurant. She bowed her head and looked burningly into my face. She spoke from a life’s effort. I went home and wrote down what she said:
‘There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open….’
‘But,’ I said, ‘when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.’
‘No artist is pleased.’
‘But then there is no satisfaction?’
‘No satisfaction whatever at any time,’ she cried passionately. ‘There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than others.’”
So what do you do with this, as an artist? How do you accept and learn to live with the “divine dissatisfaction” of being a creative person? I have some suggestions for you to try out:
1. Know how you react to success.
Do you know how your body feels when you are confident and satisfied? Where do you physically feel those emotions? Imagine getting the big phone call that you booked your dream role. Hear the phone ring. Watch yourself get the news and jump up and down. Now, how do you feel? Is there a buzzing in your chest? Do your feet feel jumpy? Pay attention to learn your “satisfied” feeling so the next time you have it, you can really acknowledge it and enjoy it.
2. See how others react to success.
Oftentimes, if you know you’re not alone, you feel better. I recommend you do your research and learn about the actors who came before you and what they went through to turn pro. See who else is a lucky member of this club you’re in called “acting” and find someone’s story that inspires you to keep going when you’re feeling down. Then you can wear that knowledge like a badge of honor and be proud to be among the company you keep. Why not rent a Bio Pic and feel some camaraderie with your fellow artists? You could also interview your friends who may be further along in their process or reach out to a 3rd Circle person. There is confidence in simply reaching out and taking action.
3. Celebrate your successes.
When you take an action in your career – no matter how big or small – pat yourself on the back. Or, better yet, plan rewards ahead of time and make a date to meet your best friend for a walk or coffee after a big audition. Then you have something to look forward to no matter how it goes and your life is not just about your career.
Feeling better already? I hope so. Once you’ve tried some of these tips, it should be a little easier to swallow the bittersweet pill of success. Remember, ‘No artist is pleased.’ but with a little investigation, you can learn how to read your success meter to make the journey a bit easier. To your success!