Certainty has a very narrow bandwidth. It creates the illusion of control. But really, you’re not in control of anything—nothing is certain and everything is in flux, and no matter how certain you are of something it doesn’t change that fact.
Creativity is fluid.
Certainty is concrete and as such, has no place in the life of the artist.
I find sometimes with new students that they want to get to a place of certainty in their technique right off the bat. Acting and auditioning, however, are processes of exploration. By rushing toward certainty these actors won’t find all of the rich, honest humanity that will get them the job. In fact, over the years I’ve found that the students that have gone on to the greatest successes are the ones that have cultivated flexibility and live joyfully in the uncertainty of their lives and careers.
Here are three reasons why moving away from certainty is a good idea for an artist.
1. It makes you close-minded. Certainty can breed a close-minded intolerance. Any opinion or view that’s not yours gets rejected by the certain mind. It shuts you down and can make you unreceptive to anyone or anything that doesn’t support your belief, creating a narrow and one-sided view of the world. Acting is just the opposite. It is about openness to everything and everybody, being expansive and inclusive. It’s about work that’s rich with variety and contains the life of everything and everybody that you experience—the more the merrier. Certainty lives in a dark, cramped room. Uncertainty throws the window open and lets in the light and the air.
2. It makes you scared. Certainty creates a false sense of permanence. Many people fool themselves into thinking that if they believe hard enough that they will always have this job, always be married to this person, that there is only one way to do things, that it will become the absolute truth, and nothing will change it. The fear comes from the fact that they know better. We all have the instinctual knowledge that everything changes; it’s the nature of our existence. Every day over a million cells in your body die and regenerate—you’re not even the same person you were yesterday! The truth is that you will age, you will die, and you will lose everything you have and everybody you know. It’s simply the story of all of our lives. Some people use certainty to fight this truth, but it’s futile. If on the other hand, you accept uncertainty, nothing can really scare you because you are living life on life’s terms. I’ve seen this truth play out in numerous audition rooms. The actors who don’t accept the built-in uncertainty of the process are stiff, frozen, and aggravated that is isn’t all going their way. Not appealing. The actors who do accept the built-in uncertainties of the audition process are flexible, natural, and completely present. Perfect. So see if you can let go of the all of this rigid sureness, it only serves to increase fear and strangle joy.
3. It puts you on the defensive. When you are absolutely certain of something it triggers a defense mechanism. When a belief is absolute, the mind feels it must defend that belief to keep order as well as convince the rest of the world of your rightness. Immovable views of right and wrong have no place in the arts in general and acting in specific. The valuable insights and expansive thinking required in great acting come from having an open and undefended mind and heart. When you’re stuck in certainty and its ensuing defensiveness, you are guarded and self-conscious. When you lean into uncertainty and realize there is actually nothing to defend, you can let down your guard, relax, stop policing yourself, and open to all of your experience.
Certainty closes off and seals your mind and heart, and leaves no room for expansion. Deep learning and creative growth happen most meaningfully in groundlessness—that wonderful state where your feet aren’t planted firmly in this or that truth.
Let go of certainty and you will be in sync with the rhythm of life and able to live fully in the realm of the artist.
Craig is currently teaching his audition technique classes and his Meditation for Actors classes in Santa Monica, CA. For more information visit www.wallaceauditiontechnique.com.
Craig is giving a free seminar/Q&A on February 15,12-2pm at The Complex in Hollywood. See www.wallaceauditiontechnique.com for details.