How to stay positive, as an actor, in times of career difficulties
I believe the answer to this question lies at the heart of the actor and how they approach and view their acting career.
Being an actor is a self-employed profession, and managing an acting career is no different than managing any other self-employed enterprise. There will always be career ups and downs, times when the phone rings off the hook and times when it is silent. An integral part of being successful in any type of self-employment is how you approach those periods when everything seems to be silent and things are difficult.
We have all heard actors use the phrases, "It's very quiet at the moment" and "my agent isn't getting me anything". It can be very frustrating when work seems to be elusive, but to 'blame' anyone or anything else is counterproductive and not taking responsibility.
One way to get yourself back on the positivity track is to look at how 'full' your life is. Work is only one part of your life as a whole. To focus all your time and energy on work and nothing else will only lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, even if you are working all the time. If you think of your current position as a pie chart, it should split evenly into several sections. The titles of each of these sections are entirely up to you, but they should reflect every aspect of what you consider important in a 'full life'. Titles you can use are; work, family, relationship, leisure, self-development, personal time (but these are not exclusive, be imaginative, you are an actor after all). Now think about how 'full' each area of your pie chart is. Does the 'work' section out-weigh the 'family' section? Does the 'self-development' section even appear as part of your pie chart? Look at your pie chart and think about how you can evenly distribute your time so that each section is evenly filled. By doing this you will take some of the pressure off your 'work' section being too full and using all your time and energy. When you have quiet periods you can look at your pie chart and think, "Ok, now I have some more time on my hands I can invest some of this time to fill other areas of my pie chart". Having a healthily balanced life is having a pie chart where all sections are equally full. The less pressure you put on any one section, the more positive your approach to your whole 'full life' can be.
Another way to remain positive at difficult times during your career is to develop a greater sense of self worth and value the skills and attributes you have to offer, whatever they may be. Throughout our lives we are put through a variety of experiences and each of these experiences teaches us skills to take with us to the next experience. So as individuals, our armoury of experiences and skills is huge. If we sit and think about it, our skills don't just come from our formal education or vocational training, they can come from anything we are involved in. Many actors think that "I went to drama school/college/university and trained to be an actor, therefore, this is where my skills lie". This line of thought may be true but it is also a very limiting thought and one that zaps us of positivity especially when times are challenging. During difficult periods, we all have to make money from somewhere and many opt for casual positions such as working in a bar/restaurant/shop as these are often the most accessible. This can be a good way to make some money, and you may really enjoy the work which is great. But for many this work will leave you feeling empty and worthless. It can be far more rewarding and positive to take some time to look at ALL the skills you have developed over the years (even those from the 'boring in-between jobs') and see where you can utilise these skills in a different way to generate an additional income. What skills do you have to offer to someone else? Is it customer service/people skills? Organisation and time management? Teaching some of the specialised knowledge you have gained? Being great with children? The list is endless and if you can't think of any skills you have then maybe this is good opportunity to look at your 'full life' pie chart and see if you need to invest some time in your 'self development' section and develop some new skills. How can this not leave you feeling positive? Seeing yourself as a highly diversely skilled and valuable individual able to apply those skills to every area of your acting work...and also potentially able to generate an alternative income for when there doesn't seem to be any acting work around. Brilliant! Remember, even the most successful and famous actors have additional enterprises that bring in alternative income. Many invest in restaurants, hotels or bars and some choose to develop their own line of fragrances. Even though these are on a much grander scale, they are all applying their skills and interests to other areas of work for when times are difficult or 'quiet'.
Finally the best way to stay positive is to be kinder to yourself. Don't berate yourself for things not working out at the moment, everybody has ups and downs. Have a list of affirming thoughts that you say to yourself when you look in the mirror in the morning. The more you repeat something the more you believe it, so don't make yourself believe anything negative. Tell yourself how amazing you are or that you are successful and talented. Pretty soon you will begin to automatically believe the things you repeat to yourself - so make sure it's something positive!