Ask The Modern Actor: What Do You Do To Stay Artistically Fulfilled In Between Gigs?

A reader asked a great question recently. What do you do to stay artistically fulfilled in between gigs? I decided to breakdown 18 things you can do during your downtime— that also contributes to your acting. 

I've wondered about this same situation multiple times. Whether it be that my series regular job was done for the year or the summer months were approaching—I could feel the work coming to a crawling halt. Most years, I would mess around until the months past and auditions slowly started coming around again. I would get really stressed out and hard on myself and say things in the mirror like "You're not doing anything." This can create irreparable damage to your self esteem.  I knew there had to be a better use of my time during the hiatus.

Luckily, after some time wrestling with what to do, I finally came up with 18 things that will keep you artistically fulfilled when you are faced with time off from work. 

1. Get Outside

You may feel that in order to get work done, you need to limit your distractions by locking yourself in your room until inspiration suddenly comes to you. The truth is getting fresh air can do wonders for your career. Research shows that just twenty minutes of fresh air stimulates increased energy and vitality. You can use this fresh air to literally come up with your next "fresh idea." 

2. Take A Nature Bath

The stress of not working can be really damaging to young actors. If you're lucky enough to live near a forest, get there during your down time. You can experience "Forest Bathing," which is now becoming a common practice for those dealing with high stress, anxiety and even depression. These nature walks are led by therapists who take clients deep into the forest and ask them to get in touch with their surroundings by using their senses. Studies in Japan have found patients dramatically lower their heart rate when surrounded by nature. 

 ME TAKING A NATURE BATH!

ME TAKING A NATURE BATH!

3. People Watch

Observation is a key lesson actors learn in their training. If you're looking to expand your acting arsenal take this down time to explore your city and people watch.

Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.”
— Meryl Streep

4. Travel

You worked hard all year long. Day in and day out of auditions, callbacks, producer sessions, and hopefully a test or two. Let's be honest, the waiting rooms of some of these offices aren't anything too inspiring. Gray walls have been working you to the bone all year. Now that the job is done and the work is taking it's slumber, it's time for you to hit the open road! Cloud hopping can do wonders for your psyche, self confidence and overall happiness. According to Colombia's Business School, creativity and travel are connected. Surrounding yourself by something entirely new, boosts your imagination. Traveling will restore your inner spirit and that is needed for next pilot season. 

5. Workout

Exercise has been proven to stimulate your cognitive function, increase your mood, and health. The summer is the perfect time to take up an aquatic sport, like surfing or long distance swimming. Even if you're in great shape and workout regularly during the year, switching up your routine is great for your creativity. It activates different muscle groups and can spark new thoughts about your career. Pro Tip: Working out is a great way to learn your lines. 

Read More from TMA—Running To Your Next Great Audition

6. Read

Let's be honest, summer reading used to be not so fun. That's because you were forced to read a book that didn't interest you. Now you have all the say. The average American has only read four books in the past 12 months—that's not bad... but YOU can definitely get those numbers up during your break! Decide not to be average and pick up that acting book that you know can take your game to the next level. 

Get Out (2017) * Script to Screen

 

7. Write

Studies show that people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals. Use this time off to write your goals down for: next pilot season, the following year, and then for the next 10 years. The feeling I got from getting these thoughts out of my head and onto paper was astounding. Additionally, this is a great opportunity to write that play or screenplay you've been thinking about, but couldn't find a break to do it. Nothing but time can be a writers dream—so use it wisely. 

8. Visualize

Visualization is a tool used by the top-athletes, singers, actors, world class speakers, and top leaders of our time. During this hiatus take time to visualize who you want to become over the course of your career and how you will achieve that. The power of visualization works in that, you begin to "see" your desired outcome.   Taking time to sit with your eyes closed in meditation or prayer is a great way to strengthen your visualization skills. 

9. Watch, Watch, Watch

This is a no-brainer—catch up on the shows you've been missing. Go to the theatre. Movie nights are a must! Actors learn by watching, and you can learn and enjoy yourself during your break by taking time to watch something artistically fulfilling. Immerse yourself in the arts during this time. That includes visiting museums, going to concerts, and seeing plays. The name of the game is stimulate all your senses during the break before you have to head back inside and buckle down. The summer months offer a variety of artistic experiences. If you are truly open to receiving inspiration, you won't be disappointed. 

10. Learn a new skill/hobby

You may not have time during the regular season to learn how to surf, learn another language, paint or try extreme ironing because you're too busy. That's why taking advantage of your time off to pursue new skills and explore new hobbies is a great way to stay artistically fulfilled. Increasing your skill set can be very helpful when it comes to your career. It can increase the amount of roles you can be pitched for and potentially book. The most important skills to have in your toolbox are anything sports/athletic related, dance, singing, playing an instrument, stunts, and languages.

11. Volunteer

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If you are looking for a way to stay active and also engage with your community, volunteering is a way to do that. People who volunteer even once in their lives, experience feelings of gratitude and immense joy through the act of giving back. You can volunteer your time to be an actor on a student project or community play. If you want to take this time to take a breather from acting, volunteer with children, the homeless, nature, or at an animal shelter. 

12. Work an Odd Job

You are an actor! Financial woes come with the territory, but so do high rewards! But just in case, you haven't hit it big yet, working odd jobs in between gigs or over the summer is a great way to make sure you can still pay your rent. I would reach out to that seasonal catering company you've worked for in the past, to let them know you want to be put on a few shifts. Bartending, waiting, nannying, dog walking, tutoring, telemarketing, writing, Instacart, Uber and Lyft are all great odd jobs that can help pay the bills. They also offer schedule flexibility when auditions start rolling in. Using the income from these jobs to pay for acting classes, new headshots, and other actor expenses is very wise to do and will insure that you can remain acting. 

13. Grab Coffee With Friends/colleagues

I'll admit I can be a little flaky during the year, when auditions are coming in frequently. I want to see more friends and take colleagues out for coffee, but these 11-page sides are pulling my attention!! That's where hiatus and summer break come in. Take advantage of this time off to catch up with old friends and industry mates. Dedicate an hour or two a week, writing emails or calling friends you haven't seen and invite them out to coffee or to see a movie. I love seeing a movie with my actor friends, because it gets us talking about what we love right way, especially if the relationship is very new. People will appreciate that you reached out and hopefully understand that during the year you like to stay focused on your work—most of the time they will be the same way. The important part is that this time dedicated to friends, will get your head off not working. They may even inspire you to pursue a hobby you've been to afraid to try or go in as a co-writer on a project. Spending time with friends can give you the buzz you're looking for.  

14. Get Your Financials in order

You just wrapped filming your first series regular role on that hot new Netflix show. You get back home still buzzing from a great season. You see the checks start rolling in and you're wide eyed! You head to the car dealership the next day and drive your new Range Rover up to that sweet house in the hills thats for rent and pay for it on the spot. A few more checks, a few more things...You see where this is going, don't you? Sadly, you get a call from your agents that the show is getting canceled and you're back to square one.

This has not been my story or anyone I know personally because we've all known two things: one, during your down time get your finances in order and two never buy a car before you get picked up for a second season!  A career in acting is expensive and most actors who quit do so because of bad money management. They end up packing their bags and going back to Kansas—they can't even compete because they did not properly budget. Create a financial plan on your time off, it will save you in the long-term. I also think it's very fun once you get the hang of it to set a budget and live by it. 

15. Create your own projects

This is probably the best thing to do on your down time as a creator. No days off! You take your new found free time to work on your screenplays, blogs, directing shorts, etc. Anything that will keep your muscles flexed while you wait to get back in the ring. This is also an ideal time to collaborate with other artists. Co-write or co-produce a project together. The idea here is not seeing a hiatus as a bad thing, but rather as an opportunity to double your output of creativity and another avenue to get your foot in the door. 

collaborate.jpg

16. Take a class

Signing up for an acting class in between jobs is also a good way to spend your time. It keeps acting muscles flexed and allows you to connect with others in your industry. The homework given in scene study class may be enough for you to feel you're still working.  Taking an audition technique class may be a great way to stay prepared for when pilot season comes back around. Practice makes permanent. 

17. Get Into Character

If you are in between a series regular or recurring guest star role or you are filming a sequel, now would be a great time to step into your character's shoes. Rework your backstory now that season is done. Where do you think your character goes from here? How does he/she grow? What has your character been doing during this break? Take yourself into different situations while in character. See what that sparks in creating a dynamic three-dimensional being. Beware, you may get weird stares from people around you. You don't need to be working on a previous character to do this either. Read a new play and read as one of the characters. Give yourself the same limp or accent. It will definitely make reading much more fun. 

18. Relax and Enjoy Your Break

Above is a very "active" list of things to do when the work has dried up and the summer months are here. However, you don't have to do any of them. You worked consistently over the year busting your ass day in and out, getting callbacks and test deals, working odd jobs, taking time away from friends and budgeting like your life depended on it. It's absolutely okay to relax and enjoy your break. You earned it. Know that as soon as the projects start rolling back in, you'll get back to grinding.  The peace of mind this will give you as an actor is also very valuable. Letting thoughts of work go for a while can be refreshing and lead to surprising creative discoveries while you work on your tan. 

 Photo by  Neko Tai  on  Unsplash

Photo by Neko Tai on Unsplash

Here's What works for me

This is easy for me to talk about, because I am currently experiencing a "break." My break has seen a combination of these 18 things. Shortly after my stint on Animal Kingdom, I traveled. I went to Charleston with my closest friends from college. I can't explain in words how the South and good company revitalized my soul. 

Since, I've been back my summer has been filled with plays, great food, books that have inspired me to think differently( I've even decided challenge myself to read 30 books by the end of the year. I'm at 21. I think I'm doing pretty well!!), nights out with friends and days by the beach with my girlfriend and our dog. Sprinkled in between these moments have been auditions and commercials. After each one I have felt increasingly more confident and happy. There hasn't been any shortage of good feedback from casting and my team. This positive energy has been fuel enough to not think about not booking.

My hope is that you find a way to invigorate your spirit. You are the master of your destiny. Alone you have the power to see the downtimes in a different light. There are no downtimes, they are just waves building to the next swell. Momentum is continually building for you and you have more abundance in your life waiting to surface.  

Closing Time

I fully understand that without an actual paying job, things can get stale but they don't have to. This list will provide you new ways to stay artistically charged and challenged. I would suggest trying something on this list that is out of your comfort zone, like collaborating on a project. Another great way to stay artistically fulfilled would be to try everything on this list, and to spend more than one day on each or combining multiple things into one day. Before you know it, work will be knocking on your door again. 

I want to pose the reader's question to you now—What do you like to do in between gigs to stay artistically fulfilled?