How Second-Guessing Yourself Can Hurt Your Craft

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.

“And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

“You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

“Keep the channel open…

“No artist is pleased…

“There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

– Martha Graham, to Agnes de Mille

So what is Martha Graham’s most applicable advice? Don’t allow self-evaluation and self-judgment to block your expression. It’s just “not your business.”

A theater director once told me that he never reads his reviews. He doesn’t believe the good ones, and he’s always regretted reading the bad ones.

Many actors spend too much time trying to “read the reviews.” They wonder how their last audition went, what went wrong, and how the casting director, producer or director reacted. We all get occasional phone calls from actors who didn’t think they did well, and want to do it again.

Most of the time, if you’re even remotely right for a role, we’ll try to give you a second chance. If we don’t, it’s usually because we’ve already found someone who has set the “mark” far higher than you’ve been able to achieve. We’ve made an offer to someone in the interim between when we set you up and when we see you, or you’re just not right for the role. (Imagine that!) Forget what the breakdown says. Producers, network, studios, and directors can change their minds about what they want, and it can just as easily occur AFTER the breakdown has been released. The process of knowing what we want is constantly evolving. We don’t have time to update you on the matrix of decisions in the casting process. And guess what? It’s not in your control.

What is in your control is still quite a lot. All the things that are involved in preparing for a role, in taking care of your career, and focusing on your attitude as a professional.

What if you could spend a week as an actor, not evaluating, not judging your work, but simply going in prepared, doing your work, and leaving.

Then drop it. Forget it. Let it go. If they want you, they’ll call you. That’s their territory. Yours is the next audition, the next project, the next character, the next opportunity. And that is a full-time job in itself.

The concepts of artistic evaluation and judgment are more closely explored in Rick Pagano and Russell Boasts’ 8-week business intensive “The Living Actor.” Seats are still available for the next course starting in Hollywood in February 2013. For more information,


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