Sue Appleby, 25 January 2015

It was interesting that many of the people at the session seemed initially unwilling to speak. This topic had attracted some blocked artists, and rightly so. After some encouragement, and from me sharing my experiences of when I have felt extremely blocked and when I've felt in contrast wonderfully free to create and to be, others started to share their experiences.

A common block was found to be shame and fear of judgment. I shared my experience of working with a director who constantly told me what was NOT working, without giving me any nuggets of what was. I kept bringing anything I could o the table in a hope of pleasing - it became a game of please and perfect, or right and wrong. The concept of ‘right or wrong’ was cited as a strong block for artists, with fear of failure a much experienced demon. Chris Grady, who is among other things a mentor and coach, posed the question: “What could you do if you couldn't fail?” For my part, when I teach singing and acting through song at drama schools, and when I'm working one-to-one with clients, I put a sizable onus on the SAFE SPACE, where the only fear to observe is that which stops us from trying. I find that sharing my own vulnerabilities helps to unlock others, and holding that with empathy helps them feel heard and gives them a strong sense of belonging - we suffer from huge waves of shame and often silence when we feel that we are ‘the only one’ who feels blocked or afraid.

It became clear that trust is an important issue. Trust in yourself as a performer, trust in your instincts - all of which, it was observed, takes time. Trust also within the company and trust in the director. Most actors cited a sense of being guided and supported by their director, without judgment again, or a feeling of “being told what to do”. It was great to have two directors in the session, who added that of course this scenario is ideal, but at some point, someone has to craft and shape the work and make it ready for opening night. They walk that tightrope.

We moved on to auditioning and how often actors feel blocked before and within the audition room. A lack of time to truly meet and connect with a panel seemed a block to creating a positive experience, with actors sharing that they often feel rushed and frustrated in these situations. I have recently learned and have been trying to coach others on what we can and can't control. I use Bryan Cranston's “Advice to Actors” as an example. “I do what I do, my job is to create characters and to show how I would do the part. The rest is out of my hands”. Considering then, if we can own our part of the bargain of auditions, to show up fully, be present, create without fear and respond from our instinctive truth, then accept that the rest is out of our hands, might this be a better mindset for auditioning in general? That age old adage of “I'm going in there to get the job” is unempowering as we have absolutely no control over who the company chooses. All we can control is who we are and how we speak to ourselves before, during and after the audition.

Expectation and comparison came up as blockers. to stand outside the audition room and hear someone who is ‘better than us’ or comparing our journey to another's creates shame, feelings of ‘not enough’ and dilutes our happiness almost immediately. Can we, then, go back to our truth and uniqueness as performers? Can we perceive others' success as something other than an attack on us? Can we trust our own journey is the right one? Certainly I have found that having my own creative life - which for me ranges from meditation, chakra sound healing, workshops, teaching, coaching and making my own work - has made a huge difference. I am able to be

happier for others as I feel fulfilled myself. My creativity is topped up, and then I feel that I can act from a place of “I am enough” as a person and as an artist.

Other helpers for unblocking were explored: happiness in yourself, support of friends and mentors, finding flow, morning pages (Julia Cameron's ‘The Artist’s Way', and the yogic principal of breathing through the difficulties as often the discovery is just around the corner. Asking for help was a huge factor mentioned by many. The safety and sense of belonging that comes from knowing that we are not alone is profound, and help can come in practical terms, but also in the emotional safety of being truly seen and held in all our vulnerability as artists. Kath Burlinson's ‘The Authentic Artist’ course (which I will be taking in February) came up as an extraordinary space for creative discovery.

Wherever we find it, I believe that as artists our creativity is unlocked when we give ourselves permission to listen to our instincts, our true self and to act from that place. When we can acknowledge our ego and our voice of fear and judgment, but leave it at the door, we are at once free from boundries, present and connected to others and to our artistry. It's taken me 14 years to get even close to this way of being, and it is a daily practice. But when it comes and when I sense that freedom, it opens up to the best work I have ever produced.

Sue Appleby - performer, teacher and musical director


ego, comparison, Authentic Artist, Trust, The Artist's Way, freedom, rehearsal room, Creativity, creativity, authenticity, instinct, auditions, blocks, fear, trust