That's from one of my favorite poems. Dylan Thomas wrote it in 1952, and that immortal last line tells us that death should be fought, not accepted. Thomas doesn't want us to quietly fade away. No, he wants us to rock and roll till the music stops.
Now, all great poetry is open to interpretation, and I've always felt that if you lose the reference to old age, the wisdom behind this poem can be easily applied to the life of an actor. Think about it. You're all creative people with a fire inside. That's the spark that keeps you going. It's the desire to perform, to create characters, to inspire an emotional response. Without it, you'd never have the courage to pursue such a difficult career. That light inside you is your creative soul, and if you want to be happy in this cruel world, you have to find ways to keep it burning bright.
Unfortunately, the harshness of this business can sometimes douse that fire with a bucket of ice-cold reality. You send out a hundred submissions and no one responds. You nail an audition but the part goes to someone else. You meet with an agent who says you're great and then he refuses to take your call. It never seems to end, does it?
And on top of all that, there are the doomsayers who attack you on a regular basis. They're the ones who empower themselves by making you feel weak. They love to tell you all about the impossible odds facing an actor, as if you didn't already know. They can quote union statistics about the few members who are actually making a living, and they always have a waiter joke ready to go. These doomsayers can't stand to see your fire burning so bright, and they do everything they can to put it out. Pity them; don't hate them. They once had a fire too.
Sometimes your fellow actors are the ones conspiring to kill your inner light. You know these people. They spend all their time bitching and moaning about the business when they could be doing something positive to jump-start their careers. They hate all the agents and managers who won't take their calls and the casting directors who won't bring them in for auditions. Everything is a downer. Woe is me. Is it any wonder they're getting nowhere?
It's hard to keep your passion alive when you're surrounded by such negative energy. That's why you have to rage against the dying of the light. How do you do that? Start by surrounding yourself with positive people, not doomsayers. Then stretch your creative muscles constantly by staying in class, performing in theater, creating content for the Web, whatever it takes. You must never lose your passion for acting, because if you do, you're finished. Game over, man.
Remember, it's okay to hate the industry. But you have to love the art. And if you're lucky, it might just love you back.