It's possible that this story made its way into the program at a certain synagogue in Chicago recently. That's because I was so intrigued by what I had observed at LAX that I talked about it with a rabbi, over cocktails, at the hotel bar in Chicago, a few hours later.
Okay, so I travel a lot with my Self-Management for Actors work, and last month's trip to Chicago to work with the SAG Foundation, Columbia College, private coaching clients, and the Chicago Acting in Film Meetup group started off with a wait at LAX during which I was seated next to a couple of people who didn't know each other well, but who were getting to know one another.
I love to people-watch. I love to listen to conversations and study human behavior. So, instead of spending all my time plugged into my electronics and working, when I travel I'll sometimes take an hour and just SIT. Watch. Listen. Think.
This pair of people at LAX had met on some sort of business travel, were charged with working together, but didn't know a ton about what each other did, so there was some of that "what do you do" dialogue going on. At one point, the guy said to the gal, "Augh. I hate it when people ask me what I do. I mean, most people just aren't smart enough to understand it. I just say, 'I work in media services in the entertainment industry,' and leave it at that. Only if they're smart enough will I spend time actually explaining what I do. I mean, really, I'm not gonna waste five minutes explaining what I do to someone who may not even be smart enough to understand what my job is."
First off, what an a-hole. But that's not even what's important. Here's what is: Dude. Love what you do. Love what you do SO MUCH that you cannot *wait* to talk about it. If your work is something you spend most of your hours doing (which, for most folks, it is), shouldn't you be blissed out at the idea of talking about it? Shouldn't it jazz you like crazy to get to share with someone who doesn't know the ins and outs of your day to day some of the cooler aspects of what it is that you do? For me, talking about my life's work is a total recharge.
Especially when I'm talking with someone--like when I travel--who has zero connection to the entertainment industry, the storytelling process, the creative process that is infused in my every encounter, it is FUN to let them in on some of what I do. And it's fun for me to learn about what they do.
Because the more people I meet, the more I learn about folks, and the more my worldview expands, the more substantial the potential of the work I can do becomes. That should be the truth for actors, creatives, and storytellers of all kind.
So, when I checked in at my hotel in Chicago late that night, I popped up to the rooftop bar for a basil cucumber martini (the restaurant was closed and I needed a snack... so... basil cucumber martini. Extra garnish. Salad in a glass. Sort of) and conversation with the folks around me. First a lady traveling with her "birthday boy" husband, then a rabbi who--when the conversation turned to "what do you do"--was fascinated not only by what I do (which I love) but also by my story about the guy at LAX who was too busy, too smart, too important to ever want to explain what it is that he does to others who ask.
We agreed: You should love what you do SO MUCH that you cannot contain yourself, when given the opportunity to gush about it. The way you light up--when you talk about your daily life--should be undeniably charismatic and attractive. Because otherwise, why DO the thing you're spending so much of your life doing? Why devote so much of your life to something that doesn't turn you on?
Of course, for many actors, it's not their beloved CRAFT that they GET to spend most of their days doing. So, they've signed up for a career in which the majority of their time is spent PURSUING work rather than engaging in an art they love so much.
So, two pieces of advice, this week.
One: Find EVERY opportunity to work your craft. Stay in class. Participate in staged readings. Do readings of works-in-progress. Star in plays in teeny black-box venues. Work out with your improv troupe. Say yes to student films, spec projects, and self-produced ventures. Yes, create your own content. No excuses. If what you love is the craft, find ways to keep that flowing through you. This is totally in your control. FACT.
Two: Get down with the pursuit. Since pursuing work is what you'll do more often than engaging in your craft, for most of your career, get OKAY with what the pursuit is. Better yet, fall in LOVE with the pursuit of a creative career--all its unpredictability, all its mystery, all its "you just won the lottery" potential. Get pumped about running your small business and all that entails. Be so excited about your CRAFT that you cannot wait to share *access to it* with others, meaningfully.
And when you're asked about what you do, never say you're an aspiring actor or--god forbid--a struggling actor. Instead, tell the world you're a storyteller who proactively collaborates with fellow creatives at every turn, at higher and higher tiers each time, and that not only acting--but running your ACTING BUSINESS--feels great, and is something to be celebrated!
If you can't fall in love with what you *actually* do for a living, how can you expect anyone else to get on board with it, to become a fan of your work, to invest in YOU?
Get down with the pursuit. Then shout it from the rooftops. What you do--all of it--is beautiful. Enjoy that!
Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Got a question, some feedback, or a great tip to share with the world? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to connect on Twitter? Follow Bonnie here. You can also circle up at Google+ here or "like" at the Facebook here. For cool weekly emails and a free MP3 from Bon, get listed here.