Myths of worth and fulfilment
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
I am brooding about how people often view happiness or fulfilment as something in the future, and—maybe—something in the past.
“I will be happy when I...”, and “I was happy then...”
For some reason, for so many, it can be suspiciously easy to discount the moment we’re in right now. I wonder, why? Why does this moment count somehow less as a source of worth and fulfilment than the future does, or the past was? The past is impenetrable. The future is hardly a promise. This moment right now is the most reliable time we have to do—or begin—whatever we hope to do.
Questions and observations about the beautiful magic of now float through my mind frequently in The Monday Night Acting Lab. Kind of like the myth about happiness, there are myths about learning, worthiness, work and success that I’ve seen spark anxieties for actors and creatives.
Myth 1: I am incomplete.
You are human, you are enough, and this moment right now has power in it. Imagine people like rolled up carpets… We unfurl our beauty, complexity and richness over the length of a lifetime. You may not yet be all that you will become in the wholeness of your life experience, but you are human, you are here now, and there is tremendous potential in that. Just show up…
Myth 2: I’m not there yet.
There is no such thing as ‘there’. And, that is not a bad thing.
Daydreaming is incredibly useful as a source of fuel... On the other hand, sometimes it’s all too tempting a trap to orient our energy toward destinations in a hypothetical future, instead of work we are doing—or could be doing—right now.
Though most often regarded as a business practice, the spirit of Kaizen (‘change for the better’), suggests that a process of methodical, steady micro-adjustments is incredibly effective for ‘continuous improvement’. Often more successful—and more graceful in the long run—than radical leaps of change over a short burst of time.
If we consider progress as unromantically as possible, it’s a wee bit like getting over a cold, isn’t it? We can’t do it all at once, and we may not even notice what progress we’ve made until long after we’ve gained ground. So please, remember that this moment is valid.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Follow your curiosity, and ask for help. Experiment consistently, and adjust your individual process correspondingly…
This moment is ripe for beginning, or beginning again. No one but you can give you permission… Just show up.
Myth 3: I need to be something else.
The most quintessential threads of the youness of you, those are your truest and most powerful touchstones.
Studying acting may be partly about the acquisition of new skills, but it’s more about untangling, unblocking, and freeing the actor within you… Empowering you to do brave work full of bold choices.
In the case of The Monday Night Acting Lab, while some learning may happen, The Monday Night Acting Lab is not about education, it is about training.
What do I mean by training? If you can run, you can run a marathon. That said, you may not be ready to run all twenty-six miles today, you may need to prepare and condition yourself before you’re ready to do that. The same principle of ‘training’ is true for the work actors do.
Let’s consider some of that work…
Actors empathize with characters—fictional and otherwise, sometimes not even human!—that may have nothing in common with their own lived experience.
Actors interpret words other people say, and deeds other people do, and develop ways to pass those off as their own, convincingly and movingly...
All of these branches of work—and so many more—are aided by preparation and conditioning if an actor is to approach them empowered, with some confidence, freedom, vulnerability, and authenticity.
The Monday Night Acting Lab endeavors to be an environment where actors can try, play, experiment, disappoint themselves in safety, wrestle with challenges that pester them, and develop resilience.
There are healthy and helpful learning environments, and there are unhealthy, unhelpful learning environments… What distinguishes the one from the other can only be defined by your own experience. At the end of the day, actor training is not about turning you into something you are not. Just show up…
Myth 4: They do it better than I do.
They may do it differently than you do, but that is not better or worse… it is different, and that’s exactly as it should be. They are not you.
Studying the work of others can be inspiring. After a certain point, if it becomes more than a dispassionate intellectual exercise, and morphs into comparing ourselves with others, it isn’t helpful.
Try to find your own words to articulate your own goals and frustrations with your work now. This moment is available to you. Just show up.
Myth 5: I’m not a ‘real actor’.
Why not? You are human, and you are engaged in the study and profession of acting. That’s what an actor is. That’s what actors do. You count.
Try to be brave enough to believe in you right now. Try to imagine that the work you are doing right now may be leading you somewhere else, and dare to squeeze every ounce of inspiration and frustration you can from this bend of the journey. Explore it with the reckless curiosity of a child, invite as many of your senses as you can! Whatever ideas knock at the door of your imagination or awareness, it is all there for you to use.
It is your journey, and each move you make enables the next. Just show up.
Until next time,
© Jeffrey Puukka, 2021