The Artist’s Battle Within

Lately, my husband has been obsessed with NPR’s Radiolab and he recommended I listen to a particular episode called, “Help!”

“What do you do when your own worst enemy is…you? This hour, Radiolab looks for ways to gain the upper hand over those forces inside us–from unhealthy urges, to creative insights–that seem to have a mind of their own.” (Click on the picture below to have a listen.)


In this podcast they talked to a woman who was battling a life-long smoking addiction, discussed how the fictional Ulysses (Homer’s Odysseus) kept himself from falling victim to the sirens, and interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) about the challenges of writing. These people got over the resistance within themselves by finding a motivation more powerful than that pesky little rebel inside. One writer told himself he would commit suicide if he didn’t write a book in ten days. He meant it. And he wrote the book!
This got me thinking about my own battle with artistic discipline. There is a struggle within myself between one part that desires to improve and the other that resists change. I will always make it to auditions, rehearsals, performances and do my best. That’s the good part. The bad part is that, when it comes to working on my craft by myself, time with friends or family always win out. Ultimately, the problem is, although I hate disappointing other people, somehow it is okay for me to disappoint myself.
There in lies the key to my solution. In the podcast, the woman who overcame her smoking habit chose something that superseded her need to smoke. For me, relationships have the highest priority. This gave me an idea. What if I treated my actor craft time, as a relationship with a person that needs nurturing. If I miss an appointment with my future-actor-me(who has achieved all my current hopes and dreams), I have disappointed her and let her down. Ulysses knew future-him would not be able to resist the sirens, so he preemptively told his crew to strap him to the mast. Tom Waits personifies his artistic inspiration by talking to it and arguing with it until a resolution is found. What if future-actor-me and present-me can come to an agreement and foster this relationship for both our good?!? It might seem a bit split personality, but there are already apposing voices going on in all our heads, so I might as well work with it, right? For now, I’ll call my future-actor-me, C2.

Dear C2,
I know we’ve had a rough time of it. I’ve ignored you more than I like to admit. Can we start over? I promise to meet with you regularly, keep my appointments, and do my best to grow our relationship. We’re in this together. Let’s do this!


What are your hang-ups? What could motivate you to overcome that obstacle? I’d love to hear your ideas. We’re all in this together!