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Careers Clinic: How do I stay motivated at Edinburgh?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I’m in a cafe in Edinburgh with more than half of the fringe run under my belt, reflecting on how things have gone so far.

Most of the excitement seems to have been in the first two weeks. The opening few nights were scary and exhilarating in equal measure, as this is my first solo show. Once I hit my stride and got a couple of three-star reviews, I felt like it was worth the time and expense of coming up here.

I still feel that way, but things have quietened down a lot since, with the press focus moving on to other acts. I’ve fallen into a standard routine of flyers in the morning, catching shows in the afternoon, flyering again close to showtime and then doing the gig. Weirdly, it’s starting to feel like the ‘day job’ I never had before.

Most of my friends were up with shorter-running shows, and have gone home, taking my ‘grapevine’ and social circle with them. How can I stay motivated for the last furlong of the fringe?

John Byrne’s advice

Being able to distinguish goals that are within our control from those outside is a useful skill for actors at any stage of their career, but comes in particularly handy at Edinburgh Fringe time.

I’m not suggesting that outside affirmations aren’t welcome, whether in the form of awards, good reviews or just a kind word from an audience member in the bar afterward. It’s just that, in our hyperconnected world, we tend to assume that if anyone enjoys our work we’ll hear about it somehow, but that isn’t necessarily guaranteed so it is not a great benchmark for helping us determine how well things are going.

As anyone who spends time on social media platforms will know, people are far more likely to take time out of their day to share negative feedback than positive responses. There are lots of actors, writers and punters who break that mould and I heartily encourage you to become one of them whenever you can.

But in my own experience of talking to audience members over the years, there will be fans who contact you with praise, the occasional troll who feels the need to tag you in on their ‘clever’ put-down, and the silent majority of customers who enjoy what you do, but won’t think to contact you on or offline because they’ll assume their opinion isn’t important to you. I am willing to bet that there will be people like that in tonight’s crowd and at every show you do from now until the end of your run – and beyond.

Although you may never hear from them personally beyond their contribution to the applause at the end of your hour, it is by no means uncommon for a random endorsement of a performer from one fringe-goer to somebody else in the business to result in an opportunity coming seemingly ‘out of the blue’ weeks, months or sometimes years after whatever show they saw.

This kind of chain reaction is far too serendipitous to be something you can force or influence, but what you can do – and the goal I suggest you set yourself for the latter part of your fringe run – is stay focused and enthusiastic about what you want to share with your audience on any given night.

Not only should your last show feel as fresh and full of possibilities as your first, but each performance in between holds the possibility of new creative breakthroughs and lessons, if you keep yourself open to them.

May the rest of your fringe be surprising and enjoyable. If it feels that way for you, that’s how your shows will come across to audiences, too.

Careers Clinic: How do I keep up with fringe partying?

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne

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