I am a self-acknowledged, self-confessed, self-help junkie. And like any self-help junkie worth her salt, I love a good quote.
This week I came across one I reckoned you really ought to know about.
"Character is the ability to follow through on a commitment after the initial enthusiasm has passed."
This pearl of wisdom is applicable to, let's face it, just about any scenario in life, from getting in shape to writing that (*ahem*) next blog post.
You or I might equally well apply it to our line of work.
Which is what I shall proceed to do.
I happen to be an actress (or actor - I have been accused of both and respond to either), but please feel free to apply your own profession/passion to the following musings.
The myth of the "overnight success" is, 98 times out of 99, just that. A myth. Often as not, when a new starlet suddenly bursts onto the scene, a quick IMDB scan will reveal they have in fact been plugging away as ill-fated patients in medical dramas since the age of three. Then there are stories aplenty of leading men and women who spent years scraping by in bedsit city before securing the career-defining role for which they would forever-after be known.
Acting, like most worthwhile activities, is a long game. It takes persistence. Which isn't always easy. Yes, when it's at its best it makes us feel alive and like nothing else. Yes, we want to be doing it when we are 70, 80, 90, and, hell, even as we're launched into the grave itself. No, we can't imagine any other way.
But it's not for the faint-hearted, nor for the faintly interested. We don't do it for the money (although I am fully aware there are exceptions to this rule) and we certainly don't do it for the lifestyle security.
You have to really need it, or you'd be a loon to keep at it. If you're reading this as a member of the acting community, I applaud your tenacity and commiserate with your shared insanity: we follow this path not because we want to (although that helps), but because we have to.
And this is where the above quote comes into play. If we merely wanted to act, if we simply fancied bopping up to a theatre every now and again, or chancing our luck at an audition as and when the mood struck, I don't expect we'd get very far. We can't feel brimming with that "initial enthusiasm" every step of the way. It's just not realistic.
That's not to say the mood doesn't strike at all. On the contrary, we've all enjoyed auditions when we're convinced we're so right for the part nothing and no-one can take it from us, and delivered performances when we've felt the sheer elation of our vocation radiating from every pore.
On these occasions, the above-quoted "enthusiasm" is alive and kicking, and we rejoice in our actorly abundance.
But at other times, said enthusiasm is distinctly lacking, might even, as one might say, have "left the building". There are two things to remember here.
Firstly, those occasions where we feel at our worst can, perversely, turn out to be our best. For whatever reason (fate, coincidence, or a kind of reverse sod's law), we can sometimes pull off our best performances when we're most convinced of our own awfulness. Strange but true.
Secondly, since we're doing it because we have to - at a deep and meaningful level and not just because it's paying for our next meal - it's actually neither here nor there whether it feels all that great or not. The lows are in fact just as much part of the ride as the highs, and actually only serve to intensify our experience. They're all part of the process. Part of the background research. Especially since, by our very nature, we tend to embrace a bit of drama.
And so we do it on the good days and on the bad days, because it's who we are and because we know it's worth it in the long run. We value it, we love it, and so, like a beloved yet irksome family member, we put up with its oddities and quirks, its shortcomings and frustrations.
It'll get better, just as it has so many times before. We'll reconnect with that enthusiasm, with that inspiration, with that overwhelming drive to get out there and just LIVE the way we were born to.
So here I am saying -
Follow through on that commitment; be full of character.
We know it's worth it, however we might be feeling today. And when we know that, the enthusiasm can come and go as it pleases. We'll just crack on anyway.
Katherine Press is an actress, writer and self-help junkie. Her acting credits include Stephen Poliakoff's acclaimed BBC/Starz series Dancing on the Edge, Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger and Ophelia in Trevor Nunn's production of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (West End). She can next be seen as the guest lead "Elise" in Foyle's War Series 9 (Episode 3: "Elise"), due to screen in early 2015.
This post was first published in her Actor In Search Of A Life blog.Suggest a correction