I like to think of myself as a positive and optimistic person and even when lockdown happened and work dried up, I promised myself I would make the best of a bad job.
For the first few weeks I did, but it didn’t take long before the novelty of online meetings and performances wore off and my plans for writing and general productivity quickly began to slide.
It didn’t feel so bad because most of the world seemed to be in the same situation. Over the last few weeks, various friends and family members have started to move back into work. Rightly or wrongly, there is a general sense of moving back towards ‘business as usual’. My own day job starts again next week.
I’m feeling like I have very little to show after life in lockdown and, with the acting industry still looking very uncertain, not a lot of motivation or direction to start afresh. Can you help?
Over the years, this column has addressed several different queries from actors making a comeback. Whether the original time out was due to illness, work issues or some other circumstance, one reminder that many correspondents seem to have found helpful is not to put too much pressure on themselves to rapidly ‘make up for lost time’.
That approach can lead to unrealistic expectations resulting in further disillusionment when things don’t seem to move fast enough. Although lockdown has lasted a few months rather than years, and it is all of us attempting to return to work rather than an individual, I think the comeback advice still holds true.
Just like actors who have been away from work over longer periods, we are returning to an industry that is very different from the one we were operating in before the plug was pulled. As you note, we are also returning to a sector where, even more so than others, the plans for new ways of operating and the prospects of success are still very fuzzy.
In situations where we don’t know for sure what will work, it often helps to remind ourselves of what we know definitely doesn’t. First among those unhelpful activities is beating ourselves up. I have spoken to many creatives who, like you, started lockdown with plans for using the time productively, but found that just getting through it day by day was all they could manage. Whatever our individual lockdown story has been, feeling guilty about it now won’t help, and trying to overcompensate with frenetic and unfocused activity will help even less.
Instead, take some time to get up to speed on the guidelines and best practice being set out by unions and professional bodies. Look into news reports of how theatres and screen production in other countries are moving forward. Fluid as the current situation is, getting a feel for what is currently going on may reveal areas of upskilling you can start thinking about.
Another useful activity is to ask yourself honestly which good practices have fallen by the wayside during lockdown, ranging from regular vocal exercises to good nutrition, and decide on a date when you will restart. This should be on a step-by-step basis with initial goals that give you some quick wins and positive energy.
One post-lockdown lesson we could all learn is to redefine our definition of ‘using time well’ to include self-care and reflection, rather than just how many plays and novels we manage to churn out. It might allow us to produce work of quality, as well as quantity, in the future.