“Even if other people tell me it’s good, I’m never really satisfied with my work.”
It’s hard sometimes feeling secure with your work and where you’re at with your process.
This is true for actors and a whole host of other creative people like graphic designers, public speakers, dancers, even event planners and lawyers, and many more!
I'm not talking about the "divine dissatisfaction" that has inspired the greats over the centuries to continuously improve and grow their craft.
I'm talking about the self-deprecating thoughts and pety insecurities about one's work that that serve to confuse and depress an artist and ultimately audiences.
Even when you get compliments from family, friends, colleagues and mentors, there can be that voice that goes, “It wasn’t THAT good!”
It‘s great to have high standards for your work, but it’s actually bad to pooh pooh on your performance when it doesn’t go perfectly.
My Juilliard acting teachers would stop us whenever we would start self-criticizing our work immediately after we finished a scene in class, and they would say...
Your work is not always about what you feel. We thought it was great! That‘s valid and you should take pride in that.
Your work is ultimately for the benefit of others. And you’ve got to let it stand on its own.
Nowadays, when it comes to taking pride in my work, my own feelings take a back seat to the feelings of those watching it. If they loved it, who am I to say it wasn’t great?
I am satisfied if I put the work in and was present in the moment. And it’s a huge bonus if others resonated with it. That GREATLY satisfies me.
Art is subjective, and that means people will find meaning in your work where you didn’t. That’s great!
Remember, there is never a “right” or “wrong” in art, just more or less interesting, and you always want to be exploring more interesting choices in your process to elevate your work.
But what’s funny is, many times, the most interesting moments come out when you are feeling least in control of your work. We call this “living in the unknown”, and as you mature as an actor you get more and more used to this.
A common thing young actors hear when they forget a line is the director tell them, “That was the most interesting moment of the whole scene!”
That's because the actor was so in the moment (a very real moment of trying to find their line) that the audience was actually able to SEE the actor, and a whole story of complexity is being told inside that vulnerability. A story that is probably different for each audience member based on their own lens of experience.
But by the sheer fact that you’re on stage in context of a story, the forgotten line doesn‘t look like a forgotten line. It looks like the character is processing something important, and that’s incredibly interesting.
Be okay with the fact that sometimes when you feel most off, that can be the highest quality work you do.
That’s just the nature of putting yourself out there like we do, and you have to be okay with that.
It’s awesome how many ways different people can be impacted by a story being told...and your work is the center point of that!
I’m not saying neglect ANY aspect of your work on the emotional and physical life of a character. Always deliver as high quality of work as possible, without a doubt. But know that putting good work in and being present in the moment will take you far in terms of delivering an amazing and compelling story, and that’s what you should take ultimate satisfaction in.
The work that is most interesting is the work that is authentic and specific.
Take satisfaction anytime your work makes a deep emotional impact on even 1 person.
If I have any final words of wisdom, it would be this...
It might be difficult to accept but look, you have to say - this is me, this is where I’m at, I’ve put my all into it and if it’s awesome, great! But if it’s not, it doesn’t define who I am because I’ve done the most that I can with this right now.
Practice that mindset going forward when you work on your pieces.
Come to peace with what you’ve done and deliver it. Being hard on yourself is a very huge obstacle. This is a normal thing that happens to people, especially artists. But the audience is with you. Be present, share yourself, and stand by it.