A Working Actor's Advice for Getting Unstuck

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Photo Source: Photo by Julien-Pier Belanger on Unsplash

I walked by a house the other day that still had its Christmas lights up.

Listen, I get it: those perpetually tangled strings are a complete pain to put up and take down every year. But this house also had a giant snowman on the front porch surrounded by fake presents and oversized ornaments. I didn’t see a garage, which means the owners walk by these decorations every day. And every time, they choose not to take them down.

Just like the owners of that house, you make choices every single second of every single day. It may be a bit heady, but your acting career unfolds in series of snap decision and choices.

It’s also a daunting thought, being plagued by the “what if I don’t do this?” opportunities. It can mean you’re living in a constant state of fear or FOMO.

And can you guess what actors say is the biggest challenge they face when it comes to their careers? Fear or, more specifically, the fear of not being enough. So many actors throw themselves into being “SO busy” so they don’t have to think about their perceived shortcomings and because they believe action—any action—will fill that hole in their psyche.

The problem, then, is that action becomes a fear-based crutch that makes you feel like you’re getting closer to your goals. You’re doing stuff, you’re making it happen....right?


What if you’re actually getting so caught up in the busy-ness of the business that you lose sight of the only thing that really matters? You. And more importantly, how you feel about yourself.

READ: How to Quiet That Negative Voice in Your Head

You know that booking the job is just the surprise chocolate ganache center in an already glorious cupcake, right? The real win happens when you’re proud of the job you do in the room because that’s all you can control. Focus on being comfortable just being you, especially in the quiet spaces.

This dream you’re tackling? It was a little spark that you said yes to. You’re taking a shot at an industry that everyone warned you about and that’s extraordinary. There are a lot of people who wish they could take a chance on themselves. But you’re actually doing it which makes me think maybe you could believe in yourself after all. Taking action for your career is critical, but stop taking action to fill the void of just being.

You’re in this career for the long haul, right? So take a long-term approach and maybe put blinders on every once in a while. Be prepared to make deliberate and potentially unpopular choices as long as they move the needle and ring true for you. It’s time to take stock.

  • Make a list of all the things you’re doing for your career.
  • Divide your list into three categories: I love it, I should do it, and I dread it
  • Throw out everything on the “dread it” list. Why bother?You’re an actor; casting can see the truth in your eyes.
  • If something lights you up and feels like a gift, keep doing it. Always keep doing it.
  • Look at everything else on your list and decide what’s actually moving you closer to your goals and what just feels like filler. Then start ripping down those burned out Christmas lights on your list, one by one.

Going forward, protect your choices.Practice saying no to anything that doesn’t feel like soul-warming ramen on a winter’s day. Maybe pretend it’s some kind of radical experiment to free up more space for the “yeses” and the “you booked its.” And no matter what happens, never forget that you’re one of the lucky ones who dare to dream in the first place.

Heather Hiatt is a working actor in San Francisco and founder of The Magnetic Actor Method which teaches actors to activate their unique talents so that they can quiet the panic, get out of their own heads, and book more work. Grab her FREE 5-Step Action Guide here.

Now get out there and do something you care about! Check out Backstage’s film audition listings!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Heather Hiatt
Heather Hiatt is a working actor and founder of the Magnetic Actor Method which is a revolutionary program designed to help actors bust through what’s holding them back in their career, from the inside out. She helps actors believe in themselves, stop overthinking and connect to any character they need to play in a brand new way.
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