I went to a talk earlier this year with a group of wonderful creative companies about failure. (A funny topic for a talk you might think!)
Now, as a huge over-achiever, being brought up with the motto that “hard work equals results”, I never really allowed the idea of failing to enter my mind, if anything, it has become a bit of a demon sitting on my shoulder, biding it’s time and providing a suitably ominous presence in all my actions – particularly with Poleroid.
Because our first few projects were so successful, I have told myself that there is no option than for the next one to also succeed and be even better – a good attitude to have, some might say, but not necessarily the healthiest one. However, in the Spring this year, my worst fears came true and a project I had put my heart and soul into, for numerous unforeseen reasons did not go as much to plan as anticipated – I wouldn’t even go as far as to say it failed, just a mixture of venue cock ups, application refusals and an actors busy schedule meant that what looked like a fantastic future of a successful London run in a quirky new venue, a potential trip to HighTide festival for a two day takeover and a transfer to the Underbelly in Edinburgh, didn’t quite happen. Despite having put a lot of work into achieving these things, not having anything to show for it ultimately is frustrating (I really think it takes a strong person to just be happy in the knowledge of what you’ve personally achieved.) So instead of being able to cope with this as most normal people would, I saw this is as the most major set back of the century.
Before I launch into this blog full out, I’d better say hello! It’s been almost 6 months since my last blog post. Apologies for that, but life has been extremely busy, and it’s been a rather odd time! For the first time since graduating from drama school in 2011, I have actually had the cliché crisis that most actors or creative’s go through at some point – What on earth am I doing? Who am I? Why is nothing going to plan?
Over the last 6 months amongst producing the aforementioned play ‘Peanuts’ and several humorous Write It : Mic It’s and Insta-Dates through Poleroid (see details on my website), I have been in a bit of an internal turmoil and had underlying unhappiness that I have found incredibly difficult to shake off. It wasn’t until June, when slowly I was becoming more and more negative and bitter about other peoples – most importantly my friends – successes, that I felt the need to stop, take stock and work out exactly what on earth is going on!
The first 18 months out of drama school was a whirl-wind of achievement, with the setting up of Poleroid (in order to give some acting exposure to myself and some friends) leading to a lot more recognition that I ever could have hoped for and my constant drive for acting work (initially in my own productions) leading to numerous interesting jobs.
At this point I would like to point out, that I have never been the sort of actress who expected jobs to land in her lap or even to get auditions with the top casting directors or theatres at all, but after hundreds of emails (almost to an obsessive point) to industry professionals and constant badgering of my agent, this year, I have been slowly but surely becoming a tad disillusioned. Gosh – doesn’t this sound dramatic and only 2 years out of drama school?!
More importantly than all this, the time I spend on Poleroid is now completely out weighing my focus on acting.
Like many emerging actors, juggling 4 part time jobs to try and live in London and beginning to see Poleroid as a business, plus attempting to be pro-active on the acting front, has lead to me, in recent months, to come to a complete stand-still.
So, I am reaching out to those of you who may have been in the past, or are at this very moment in the same position as me. I am going to share with you a few things I have learnt recently, in the hope that it will enlighten you, as it’s enlightened me.
I am the worst person for comparing myself to others. To me, everyone is doing better, coping better and achieving more than me, but I think the most positive thing you can do, and something I am learning to do, is to stop comparing yourself, as you really are being utterly cruel to yourself. You have taken the path you’ve taken, and that path has been taken for a reason. It’s all very well thinking – oh, why hasn’t my college given me the contacts I need, why aren’t I getting the opportunities other people are, but essentially what is this doing to help you?
A few weeks a go, my mother made a very good suggestion, that the reason I’ve got into this state, is because I have perhaps lost inspiration. There are certain people who inspired my first Poleroid projects, and a reaction to my training which sparked the fire which set it alight, certain theatres whose productions drove me to want to act, and in the last 6 months these lights have pretty much totally died. From going to the theatre pretty much every week, I had taken to having no desire to go at all or even want to know what is going on. (This has, in the last month been rectified and I am already noticing the effects).
I am a firm believer that if you’re focused on something, you will definitely achieve some success, but over the last 6 months, despite thinking I was, I don’t think I’ve really been focusing on either Poleroid or acting properly. Instead I’ve just been stressing myself over why I’m finding life so bloody difficult and why I’m achieving so little in the same amount of time I had to achieve so much last year!
So lately, it’s finally dawned on me, that I’ve got years to hit London with a tremendous show which will run for months and receive rave reviews and give both my company and myself some success, but perhaps I don’t need to achieve this right now. If this marvelous acclaim does come my way, then wonderful – that’s a bonus!
What is more important than anything, is that you don’t lose yourself. On top of that it’s also important for me that I don’t lose the essence of what Poleroid is and what I want to gain from it: A company to give young, emerging creative’s (myself included) opportunities in their desired field.
So when you are in moments like this, do you keep on wallowing in your negativity, or are your honest with yourself?
It’s all very well friends saying “oh just snap out of it”, but I actually don’t always think it’s possible to click you fingers and make yourself feel better. If anything, it can often make you feel worse as the more you try to feel happy the more miserable you become (!)
First you must realise what is wrong, realise what you’ve got and then go out there, find the inspiration you’ve been missing, make some changes to your priorities, start doing things you hadn’t been making time to do and subsequently make life better for yourself.
And more than anything, I’ve realised you must try to stop relying on other people and situations outside of working life to give you the happiness you should be able to find in yourself.
I recently met an extremely interesting actor who was recently performing in a production created by a New York company called The Team at the National Theatre Shed space. His enthusiasm for life, and absolute love for his craft was completely inspiring. He spoke to me about the way his company worked – a group of people creating an ensemble production which is completely unique. They build their script from films, books, places they visit and workshop it over numerous months. They not only founded and run the company, but perform in the work they produce and show no shame in working this way. I also recently backed Zach Braffs new film on Kickstarter and find his way of working, and sheer joy for his work and unapologetic attitude towards his achievements a constant inspiration. I’m sure I’ve talked about him in a previous blog so I won’t go on.
So this brings me back to the title of this post – “Riding the wave”.
Everyone encounters failure, but the most important thing is to make a decision and not be scared of it. In the talk I went to a wonderful analogy was used for this exact moment of deliberation: If you’re surfing and a huge wave comes, do you let the wave crash on top of you, do you duck under it and wait for the next one, or do you ride that wave?
I have ducked under several waves recently and ridden a few – none of these things should be classed as failure, more than anything, it is (to use the most iconic drama school saying) all part of your ‘journey’ (yuck) and it will ultimately get you somewhere – even if it isn’t where you thought you’d end up.
I hope you’ve found this post in some way useful. I think, in an era of Facebook and Twitter where everyone is desperately trying to prove to the world how happy they are, through the millions of photos that are posted on the internet every day, you can sometimes forget that the reality might not be as wonderful as is shown. In the mean time, it doesn’t help those looking at these status’s and photos and thinking “oh gosh, why is my day not as good as theirs today” or “why am I not achieving as much as them” when we should actually be trusting in our own achievements and self worth.
I heard this little quote the other day, and it’s thought I’m definitely going to try to carry with me from now onwards (and hopefully upwards)!