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Knock the Rust Off: Tips for Jumping Back in After a Dry Spell

Dry spells are a normal part of an actor’s career. Whether it’s just an extended period of not booking, or, you know, a global pandemic, there are going to be those times when you just aren’t working. Especially after long dry spells, it’s easy to fall prey to those creeping doubts that inevitably sneak into your subconscious: Am I too rusty? Do I still “have it?” 

1. Kill the Voices.

The first and possibly hardest thing to do is get out of your own way. Beating yourself up over all the ways you’re not good enough or ready enough or whatever other nonsense your brain is telling you will only hold you back. Worrying is not the same as preparing. It might take a lot of practice and hard work but cultivate a calm, positive and empowering mindset. Remind yourself of your training and skills. A dry spell doesn’t magically leach away years of hard work. 

2. Keep Working During Dry Spells.

One of the best ways to avoid feeling rusty is to keep working on your craft even when you’re not booked. Creating your own work, doing readings or taking classes are all great ways to keep your hand in while you’re waiting for the next gig. If you’re coming off of a dry spell and haven’t done any of these things, don’t panic. See if you can pick up a master class or do a night of monologues with peers, or anything low-pressure that can help you get back into the swing of things. A fresh pair of eyes on your work never hurts either.

3. Get Back to Basics.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re just not clicking back in, dust off the 101 playbook. Get back to the structure of script scoring, thorough warm-ups and all the exercises and preparations that tend to fall by the wayside in busy times. These tools are taught for a reason. Not only might you regain confidence by returning to practices used when you were working out your acting muscles consistently, but you might also find new ways to use them.

4. Make Bold Choices.

It’s easy to want to ease back in and play it safe, but in my experience, that’s a surefire way to start an anxiety loop of not committing enough and then feeling self-conscious about it. Try to rip the band-aid off and go big with your acting choices. It’s generally held wisdom that directors would rather have an actor dial back a bit than have to pull teeth getting choices out of them. 

5. Find the Fun.

For me, the fastest and most surefire way to knock the rust off after a hiatus is to jump in the deep end and fully immerse myself in everything I love about acting. Whatever inspires you and gets you fired up, head in that direction. Embrace the joy of working again. Investing in the things you love about acting rather than the things you fear will do more for your performance by far.

Remember that you’re not alone. Every actor goes through dry spells. Long ones. Just because you’re not currently booked does not mean you stop being an actor or an artist. Keep your inner dialogue loving and empowering, and remember that exercising your craft is not a gift others bestow on you. It’s a choice you get to make.

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