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The Season of unComfortability

January 22, 2013

Originally published:
January 12, 2013

The end of one year and the beginning of the next means holidays, Academy screeners, Christmas movies on TCM, and above all, varying levels of discomfort. There are many reasons for this—everything from too many people going exactly where you want to go to getting Christmas cards from realtors.

There are hours of programming already devoted to the pressures of the holiday season. I will keep my comments directed at the uncomfortableness for actors in particular:

1. This is the time of year when auditions dry up.
2. This is the time of year when you look back and wonder what might have been.
3. It is the time of year we look ahead and wonder what pilot season will look like.
4. It is the time when parents and loved ones ask if you are making a mistake with your life.
5. It is hard to enjoy time off when you are already unemployed.

All of this creates doubt. Doubt is a close cousin to fear. It tends to diminish us. When the days grow dark and cold, when the future seems as uncertain as it did last year at this time, I recall the words of an old teacher of mine, Ed Kaye-Martin: “Comfort is the enemy of the artist.”

One thing I tell my students: In improvisation, you have to be your own writer, director, producer, technician, composer, and support staff. However you are not allowed to be your own critic. Being your own critic attacks your will. Stanislavsky said the primary element involved in the creative process is not talent but will.

My New Year’s wish for you all is the gift of will.

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  1. A friend/co-worker/direct report lost his job last August but was fortunate enough to have saved some money and received a severance package that would carry him for at 9 months. Two days ago he called to report he’d landed a nice job.

    While “between projects” he used the time to bike, lose about 20 pounds, took an evening class in his field of expertise and reconnected with his children. He willed himself from sleeping in every morning, eating junk and watching too much daytime television (though he did use the time to catch up on a truck load of films he’d missed in the last 4 years of overtime, working Saturdays and such, but the time was pre-planed). I admire him for taking advantage of the time off. He freely admits that while watching his dollars, he didn’t need to be overly fearful of ending on the street…a luxury not afforded to many.

    He also reported that he kept a very positive outlook and treated the time off as quasi-employment. “My job today is to do X” which provided him some sense of self-control over events that would have overwhelmed him otherwise.

    Best of all things to you, good sir.

    • I agree. It is so admirable to have used that time effectively. It is too easy to think we are only shaped by what we work on. We are shaped by the way we view our time. I think the beginning of a positive outlook is to respect the time time we have and not waste it. Cheers. Thank you for the well wishes.

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