What Vincent Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Your Life As an Actor

Got a question for you.

How many hours a week are you acting?

Auditions and workshops don’t count – I’m talking about that rarefied and sacred space in which you actually work on your art.

  • This is the space where the outcome doesn’t matter

  • You’re not getting it right or wrong

  • You’re not trying to be cool

  • One of my clients calls this “the sandbox of the creative soul”

Vincent Van Gogh lived in this sandbox. I know you know that he took his own life. But did you know that he did it when he could no longer paint? He didn’t choose to leave us when he could no longer sell his paintings (he was never financially successful while he was living).

Good ol’ Vinnie didn’t dutifully go knocking on doors trying to make a buck off his work: he painted.

He painted day after day, week after week, month after month. There’s something deeply profound to be learned from his creative rigor – that’s why we still know his name

Vincent Van Gogh painted because he had to. He couldn’t not do it.

Most of us started acting in grade school or high school when we were full of hormones, heartbreak, and hidden desires to fit in.

The first time you courageously stepped onto a stage; looked out past the lights; stood in front of an audience and felt something stir inside you, something you had never felt before…

Some part of you relaxed and said, “Yes. Finally. I’m home.”

Some deep distant quiet part of you woke up; it tickled you with that once-a-year magic that (still?) happens when you blow out the candles on your birthday cake.

You were home.

Your creativity and big, passionate heart were bursting to unfurl stories to the world. Just as it did for Vincent as he found landscapes to paint, personalities to capture, and sunflowers to sketch.

The magic you make on stage and on set has nada to do with emailing an agent or putting together the perfect reel. These are the necessary tools of running an actor business, yes, but let’s say I could wave my magic wand (and I wish I had one!) that would grant you nine auditions a week for television, Broadway, or film (or all three!).

“Yes! Fabulous! Please do! Thanks, Fairy Godfather!”

I’ve seen some actors live through just this seemingly magic, happenstance, haphazard trajectory and I’d say they have a 50/50 chance being able to live up to their opportunities.

WTF, Brian?

We have glimpses of who we want to be, glimpses of who we can be, and tastes of what it is like to visit that magical land of career abundance: a collaborative day on set, an audition at a fancy casting office, or a glowing review.

The actors who are able to make this sudden abundance work are the actors who were constantly working on their art BEFORE the opportunities came a-knocking.

They were acting in class; acting in their own content; performing in a play, improv or stand-up, yes, even when television was their first passion. They were acting because that was what called to them. They kept their souls in the sandbox most of the time and let their brains wear the business suit only when necessary.

Now listen here: I’m not saying that calls and auditions and submissions and networking aren’t necessary tools to run your acting business. I’m saying that your craft is the most important tool.

Maybe you know this already, maybe it’s the driving force behind every submission, email, and class. Or maybe you take it for granted. Regardless, let this simple reminder reignite your “why.”

Paint your paintings regardless of the sales tag or wall to hang them upon. Every playdate you make with your soul will reap far greater rewards for your fulfillment and success than hours trying to build your twitter followers.

See you in the sandbox,


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