Failure — A Reframing

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Failure. This isn’t a word you see often on my blog. When I started this site, I made an unspoken promise to myself to keep my updates focused on the positive aspects of my career. There are times that’s easier than others but once in a while you have to acknowledge your shortcomings, even in a public forum. Even if only to acknowledge that you’re gritting you’re teeth and still working through.

As with many of us, 2016 was a difficult year for me. In my personal life, I was hit with a number of unfortunate events throughout the year. I’m originally from Fort McMurray, AB and in May, both my parents and my sister and her family lost their houses in the Fort McMurray wildfire. In August, my grandmother—my last surviving grandparent and one I grew up with as a child, spending many afternoons with after school—passed away from lung cancer. In September, I broke my foot—the first time I’ve ever broken any bone in my body and not only was this difficult personally but it left me out of commission for a period when it came to auditions. Thankfully, it’s been healed now for a few weeks and I’ve been back in the audition room since then.

Professionally, I’ve been going through a bit of a dry spell. While I’ve been out to many auditions, and getting callbacks, it’s still been a tough year in terms of getting gigs. I’ve done some further workshops and training, and getting very positive and specific feedback, and that doesn’t always translate into landing work right away. It’s the reality of the ups and downs of the industry that every artist goes through. I’ve also been applying to a number of grants, residencies, and festivals with a play I completed last year, Buffering, about social media, YouTube celebrities, issues of consent, and the digital audience-creator relationship. While I’ve been shortlisted, I’ve yet to secure an agreement or funding to help get Buffering into further development or a premiere production. This is as opposed to my previous three plays which all secured successful productions within my first call-out for producing partnerships and/or funding.

Why am I talking about this here? Doesn’t writing about my ‘failures’ simply make me look like a tarnished, undesirable product? Well, to some, that may be. That’s how I felt for a while. But I’ve had to reframe that conversation with myself, and, therefore, with all of you. Yes, I may be having a quieter, and more difficult year than usual. That is normal. That is to be expected. For example, not many artists can say their first three plays were all produced immediately, with support, and to a welcome level of critical and box office success. I’m fortunate enough to say that and now that I’m in a position of dealing with rejection for the first time, it’s difficult. But, for many artists, that’s the norm and by reframing the conversation in that way, I realise the fortune I’ve had, the skill and expertise I possess in order to have achieved that in the first place, and the determination to plough through the dry spells. Even as an actor, I have to recognize the positive feedback I’m getting from casting directors in workshops and accept that as the foundation for future professional relationships and that often time is part of the formula that leads to success but without the work I’m doing, I won’t be able to reach it even if it doesn’t come whenever I’d like.

Where does that leave me now? Well, I continue to apply for opportunities with Buffering and am currently waiting on a number of applications to aide in its development. I know it’s a good script and a production that deserves to be realised, so I’m putting in the work to get there, despite any setbacks. I continue to audition, recognizing that every time I’m called in, it’s a success, and every time I’m called back, that’s an even greater success. Getting the job is just one more success in that chain, but that doesn’t mean not getting the job is a failure because there were already successes on the journey to that decision. And I continue to focus on training, planning to look into different training options in order to further facilitate my expertise and challenge and grow my skills as a performer.

In taking the time to acknowledge my ‘failures’ in 2016 I get to acknowledge how far I have to get in order to even reach the point of that ‘failure.’ By recognizing and reframing these ‘failures,’ instead of ignoring those moments and throwing them away, I now will use them as the fertilizer to grow success in the next year and those to come.