I gave a talk last week at Brock University to students in the Theatre Department. Some of the students want to be actors, some are drama in education students, some from all over. 98 students sitting in a lecture hall, staring at me, pens at the ready, lap tops open. It’s a unique experience for me – I don’t like to give talks. I believe workshops should be around 70/30. 70% participation, 30% me talking. But the purpose of this talk was to share with drama students what it was like to take a love for the arts and apply it to a career in the arts. To talk about my journey to how I got where I am today. So that requires more than 30% of words.
But, I couldn’t just talk. It makes me panic a little – mostly because I don’t learn from listening. I learn from doing. So I can’t imagine anyone else can learn from sitting and listening to someone talk for an hour.
So I asked questions. Not questions that need answers right then and there, but something to engage the brain. To engage them in what I was talking about. To make them think about their own journeys thus far. These were questions that every student in that room should be asking themselves, so win win all around. These are the questions that were peppered through my talk:
- What do you want?
- What do you want as an actor?
- What do you want as a teacher?
- What do you want as an artist?
- What is your purpose as an artist?
- What percentage are you into your art? (100%? Less? More?)
All of these seem like straightforward questions. I didn’t ask them of myself till I was 30 and feeling like an absolute failure as an artist. Answering these questions, knowing what I wanted as an artist, knowing what I wanted from my art, made all the difference in how I approached my career and my artistic life.
Sometimes, particularly in the arts, we do things simply because it’s what everyone else is doing. We follow the well worn path without even considering whether that path is the right one. Knowing what you want gives you a clear sense of which path to follow. Knowing what you want makes it easier to pursue. Easier to take action. Easier to have strategy. There is nothing that feels better than taking action in your career. Moving toward something instead of spinning your wheels.
What do you want?