Why all Performers need a Hobby

Actor and Blogger Emma McEnaney

We all need a hobby. Something that takes us away from the pressures of every day life. Whether that’s a sport, a group, an activity, whether solo or involving others, anything that sparks your interest; it doesn’t matter what it is, so long as you enjoy doing it.

As a performer, it is particularly important. In creative industries, we are responsible for our own career, in a way that many other professions are not, which means that we can put a great amount of pressure onto ourselves to “Make It Happen”. As someone who is very much at the start of my career, I have often found myself focusing solely on that, so that every day revolves around “Making It Happen”.

Today I need to: practice singing, learn more rep, strengthen my belt, do a workout, get fitter, get stronger, apply for some jobs on Casting Call Pro, send some emails, do more of A, B and C…

All this and more, before heading off to work so that you can pay the bills, and afford those dance classes. There is always something to be doing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it is great to be doing all of this. It’s so important to be proactive – you can’t just sit and wait for the phone to ring. Ideally, you want to be at the top of your game all the time so that, when an audition comes through, you’re ready for it.

The key lies in the approach. I got to a point where the pressure I put upon myself was so intense, it became a debilitating force, rather than a driving one. There is such a fine line between the two that it can be easy to cross over into negative territory without noticing. It’s not long before it can all feel a bit overwhelming. Practice shouldn’t be a chore, you want it to be enjoyable so that you actually want to do it, rather than it being something you have to do.

How do we keep motivated without getting bogged down under the weight of pressure? This is where a hobby comes in.

Before I’d set foot onto a stage and acting became a real career contender, I wanted to be a professional footballer. A natural shot stopper, I was placed in goal and worked my way up the ranks of female (and male!) youth teams, eventually making my debut for Newcastle United Women aged just 15 (it would’ve been 14 but a nasty challenge left me with a broken collarbone, so it was delayed slightly). I was involved with the England U17s and U19s, and ended up at Loughborough University to make use of its fantastic facilities and legendary sporting legacy. 

Sadly, it wasn’t long before football became tarnished with an overwhelming feeling of pressure and I soon retired my gloves. The acting would follow.

Skip forward 8 years and I found myself at Wembley Stadium, watching the Women’s FA Cup Final, with a rather large and unmistakable craving to be playing. Perhaps it was a case of being swept up in the atmosphere but as I watched the players warm up, I was itching to be out there. It started as a quiet thought, ‘Oh, that would be fun,’ which slowly grew into, ‘That would amazing…’ then, ‘OH MY GOD I WANT TO BE OUT THERE!!!!’

Safe to say I had thoroughly enjoyed my first time at Wembley.

I sat on this newly unearthed desire for a couple of months, realized it wasn’t going anywhere so joined a local club. Starting again after so long was intimidating; my goalkeeping brain is rusty and I’m lacking in goalkeeper fitness (somewhat different to general fitness, as I rediscovered when my legs gave way after some footwork drills!). My ancient boots have been replaced and I treated myself to some snazzy new gloves. It has definitely been one of the best decisions I have made!

Here is why:

As a rabid over-thinker and serial analyst, I tend to over complicate most things and end up bogged down in a mass of worried thoughts. The return to football is helping me to combat this because I’m doing it for FUN. Yes, I want to improve and play well etc, but my focus, and reason for doing it in the first place, is for enjoyment’s sake. When I notice unnecessary pressure and criticism begin to sneak in, I make the conscious decision to change the focus back to FUN. And that is making all the difference; the more I focus on the enjoyment side, the more chance I give myself to actually improve and succeed.

Let me demonstrate:

At a recent training session, we played a small-sided game in which I had to play OUT FIELD. Now, those two words have always filled me with terror – I’m a goalkeeper, I don’t do feet! In the past, I would always worry that I would give the ball away, panic and inevitably do just that. But I thought, Hey, give it a go! What’s the worst that can happen?! In doing so, I embraced my worries and lack of skill in that department, and just gave it a go. And you know what? It was SO much fun!!

Genuinely. I ran, I made mistakes, I passed the ball to the right team, I passed the ball to the wrong team; I laughed through it all. And then, a miracle happened…I made a run into the box, controlled the ball and I SCORED!! Elation followed; I threw my hands into the air and celebrated as though I’d scored the winning goal at Wembley. I promptly returned to defence and tripped over my own feet. But I didn’t care because I had just scored MY FIRST EVER GOAL!! 
So, back to my point, sometimes you just need to let yourself have some fun. The reason I began playing football in the first place was because I enjoyed it and that is why I have taken it up again. I am playing FOR FUN. The rewards are plentiful. I feel good about myself, happier and healthier, plus its doing wonders for my self-esteem and self-belief. There’s something incredibly rewarding about being part of a team, and I am feeling more grounded and at peace with myself. This then translates into my daily life, and I’m finding I have more energy and motivation to stay on top of the to-do list.

All of this is happening through removing the pressure and allowing myself to do something I enjoy. And, as my Ronaldo-esque goal demonstrates, amazing things can happen when you give yourself that permission.  

Find your hobby and Enjoy It!

NB: If Arsenal Ladies were to give me a call, I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted…

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Post Author: The Happy Performer