When You’re Not Quite There Yet – Negotiating the “Middle Ground” of Acting

Tuesday, 13 September 2016 12:41

Eek! The middle ground. That place that is no longer the beginning, but it certainly doesn’t match the vision you held for yourself before you took the very first step forward. Back there, right around the first step, everything seemed so shiny and possible. The dream you recall was mammoth, but you felt energized and invigorated by it and everyone around you was cheering you on.

But now that you’re out of the gate and miles away from the start line, as an actor, you begin to notice that you are in some sort of formless, unremarkable, and less than spectacular middle ground. The initial rush of excitement has a long worn off and those words of Robert Frost keep circling in your head: “I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.”

I’ve been thinking about the peculiarity of this middle ground lately in terms of my kitchen refurbishment. It is a Leap with Passion Focus of mine to redo my kitchen this year and my vision of the completed project captivates me greatly. I actually began this process in November 2015…and I’m still working on it. Thus far I have sorted through my kitchen, I’ve repainted it a cheery Benjamin Moore Tangelo and I’ve even stepped it up with some new mind-numbing-to-put-together pieces from IKEA.

But even after all this work, my kitchen is not quite there yet. A ceiling fan sits in my hallway awaiting installation. I know the backsplash I want, but it is not yet ordered. A shelf needs readjusting. And the lighting overall need some sort of as-yet-unspecified attention.

As much as I want my kitchen to have been completed months ago, I’ve come to realize that the process of fulfilling my grand and glorious vision for my kitchen includes this exact place, this middle ground. I’m in the middle. I’m in process. I’m on my way. And I’m reminded of this not-quite-there-yet stage continually because I’m in my kitchen every day.

Since my time available to work on my kitchen is limited (and has been limited throughout the project, and will continue to be limited), I’ve begun to look at accepting this middle ground as a sort of practice:

  • Can I not only be okay with being in this middle ground, but can I be excited about it and see that it is part of the whole vision coming into being?
  • Instead of noticing what’s not yet completed, can I remember where I was a year ago and let that inspire me forward?
  • What if I embraced this middle ground as a sort of new beginning and built from there?

All of this has, of course, led me to think about acting. The middle ground for an actor can be a frustrating and sometimes depressing place. You’re certainly not where you started, but the exact thing that you want has not yet fully emerged. It’s at this point that an actor can begin questioning everything.

If you are experiencing this (as nearly all actors do at some point), I invite you to look around and remind yourself of where you are exactly—the middle ground is a place on the way to where you are going. Notice that you are way closer than you were when you began. And remember that it’s always darkest in the middle of the forest, but it’s often the only path leading from where you started to where you envision arriving.

As a coach, I love growth and I deeply believe that we, as humans, were designed to grow. The murky middle ground then is not merely an annoying place we pass through on the way to somewhere more important. The surprising gift of the middle ground is that it is the most fabulous training program we could ever ask for that leaves us stronger and more ready for all that’s ahead when we finally reach our destination. And what a story we’ll have to tell when we finally get there.

   

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