One year ago today I left NYC to return to London to finally put all my studies and knowledge to the test and enter the big bad world that we all call “The Industry”.
4 jobs, 3 moves , numerous rejections, making new friends, losing old ones, many feelings of frustration and tears later, I am here. I am going to be honest, it’s not been easy, at all. However, there are also great things that have happened to me this past year that make all the more difficult ones worth it. I thought, why not share my knowledge and what I have learnt with my fellow performers who are just about to leave college or have decided to take the leap and become “professional”, and even those of us who are more experienced, maybe you’ll learn something new or care to share some tips of your own.
1.) Be patient
Not all of us will be lucky enough to bag that contract as soon as we graduate, and that’s OK. Just because you are not employed yet does not take anything away from your talent, it just means the right thing hasn’t come along yet. This industry in one big waiting game; waiting for the agent, for the yes for a contract, for the right audition, the right opportunity. It can drive you crazy, but as long as you are doing something towards self growth (taking class, singing lessons, creating…) you are still putting yourself on the right track and you’ll be ready when that job does come along.
2.) Create your own work
I CAN NOT emphasize this enough! I feel this is what makes you an artist; Whilst you are waiting, unemployed, maybe feeling a little negative, put your feelings into some work! Choreograph, sing, write, vlog, film, draw… Anything that is allowing you to express yourself, you are a creative with your own voice after all, not just somebody’s puppet. You can do this for fun or if you are serious about being professionally creative, then create your own piece, get it showcased, get it filmed, spread the word, ask your fellow artists for inspiration and help, there are so many out there that will want to! Collaborate and you will meet like minded people. No one is stopping you from creating something, remember there is only ONE you, so whatever you create will not have been done before.
3.) Have structure
One thing I have learnt is that since you are no longer studying, there is no one telling you to get to class, to get up at a certain time, to eat certain things. At first its great, but then you realize that you’ve become lazy and unproductive and although before you were doing a lot in one day, now the simple task of getting up and getting ready is an accomplishment in itself. Put a timetable in place for yourself, every Sunday plan your week and have a goal for the day, week and month and actively work towards it. I would highly recommend the book “the 12 week year”, this will give you everything you need to know about using time efficiently and structure.
I have learnt that there is no consistency whatsoever in the life of a performer. Your wages are inconsistent due to the varied contracts and jobs out there, your friends are inconsistent: now all of you are not studying together, everyone is located all around the world, or all around the UK, you all have different schedules so it’s difficult to meet up on a regular basis. The classes you take may be covered by a different teacher every week and the people that attend change every week too. This makes it difficult to make new friends and get a teacher to know you well. Your location could also change at any moment if you are offered a contract abroad. I would recommend trying to stick to at least one regular class a week, or regular gym session(s) a week just so you get a little consistency somewhere in your schedule, even organizing with a friend that every Sunday you’ll call each other will help you feel more settled faster.
5.) A broken heart takes a while to mend
So amongst all this craziness and numerous changes, how are YOU doing? Remember to take time to look after yourself, and at first you might have to figure out how to do that. I know I did, emotionally I had things to fix and I was so impatient, I just wanted everything to fall into place because then I’d be fine. But, that’s not true, things take time: maybe you’ve broken up from someone, maybe you have lost someone, maybe you miss your family and old friends, there are so many new things happening, it’s hard to find the ground and just check in with yourself. Maybe, write down your feelings, meditate, put them into creating, spend time with people that make you laugh, focus on all the exciting new things that are coming your way; but in my experience, at the end of the day, no matter how much you try to heal yourself, the only thing that truly will is time. So don’t be hard on yourself, just remember “This too shall pass”.
6.) Keep connected with your family/close ones
Your family or whoever you consider your family are extremely important in helping you remain resilient and grounded in this whole crazy journey. In my case, my parents are my absolute world, and every single step of the way they are there for me, they believe in me, they are there to comfort me after the many rejections, and to encourage me to keep going. They are outsiders of the exciting but sometimes cruel industry and it’s refreshing to keep in contact with those “normal” people. They are my biggest fans. Take time in your busy schedule to phone, facetime and skype your close ones. Messaging is great but real conversations are better; With friends too, meet up, laugh, do something together that is not related to the industry. Don’t forget, during all the hustling and grinding, to have fun! Otherwise you will burn out.
7.) Train outside of class
Everyone thinks that you are training your skills when in class. This is true but I actually learn a lot more about myself outside of it. In class, I will take that knowledge, try to retain it and then in the comfort of my own room, where I am completely free and have no fear of anyone judging me, I explore. Nearly everyday, I put on music, and set myself tasks for improvisation, choreography or just practicing certain moves, I have learnt and discovered so much about my body and about the way I can move. If I discover anything useful, I write it down and remember it for when I am in class. This is completely FREE and you don’t need a lot of space: the lack of space actually makes me more focused on my body and where the movements are coming from internally, it’s a positive challenge!
8.) Always have a goal for every week
What is your goal for this week and how will you achieve it? By setting yourself a goal for each week, you will feel purposeful and actually you will be working towards something you want, which is such a great feeling! Especially when you achieve it! The goal can be as small or big as you like and it doesn’t have to be related necessarily to your craft. Maybe it’s that you will spend more time with friends, or that you will eat healthily, or that this week you will sort out your email inbox. By having something to work towards, you know that you are still learning and growing even if you are not dancing all day and everyday.
9.) Do not STOP
When you get low, and you will, do not stop! If you look at many successful peoples’s stories, most of them started out struggling just like you are now, and the reason they got to where they are, is because they didn’t stop. They say for every 10 auditions you get 1 yes. If this was an easy industry everyone would be doing it, but they are not. You are doing it, remind yourself why, remind yourself that there is no one like you, and as long as you stick to being you, you will find your niche. It just takes time. Have a technique in place for when you get cut from an audition: If I get cut, I will go for a coffee, call my family, work on a new piece of choreography, treat myself to ice cream, go to a class. Whatever works for you! You WILL get there, you’ve just got to remind yourself, that being employed does not define your greatness, it’s your actions (how you react) that do.
Gratitude is your greatest friend. It sounds cheesy but if you genuinely try it you will see that you will start to feel better. When you are feeling low, I challenge you to think of three things that you are thankful for, and you must actually make yourself feel that gratitude inside. I guarantee you can think of three things. We can easily lose perspective when all we can think about is the next contact, but remember there is more to life than a contract: people that love you, having a roof over your head, owning nice clothes, your pet, your friends…. You are actually doing a lot better than you think.
11.) EXTRA ONE Live Vulnerably
This last one, I had to put in. All of us wear masks, on social media, at auditions, at castings, with fellow performers. Of course, sometimes you must choose to be professional and if you don’t trust people then keep your personal experiences to yourself. However, be open with the people you trust. LIVE VULNERABLY! Mental Illness, Physical Illness, Injuries, Worries, Questions, Problems, Fear….Share it! You will be surprised to learn that lots of people are struggling with similar things, you will feel less alone, they will feel less alone. You will be rewarded for being brave, you will get answers, support and gratitude, because by being open, you will inspire others to open up, and you will be helped. This industry is a lonely place, and it may seem cut throat, but there are people out there that will welcome you with open arms, because if we all become more open, we will be less alone.
If you live closed up, people will never see the true you.
I would rather live vulnerably and honestly because then everyone knows the true me, no hidden agendas, no fake facade, no secrets. Then the people that love me, love me for me.