Bewitched, Bothered And Beaten Black N’ Blue: What Taking Up A Hobby Taught Me About Mental Health In The Industry
Actor and Writer, Charles White explains why having a hobby is so important for your mental health when undergoing a career as an actor.
By Charles White
“Everybody needs a hobby”
Those four words have been repeated so many times by so many different people that they’ve become like old furniture, a barely noticed feature of our collective lexicon. Whether it’s running, jumping, taxidermy or competitive earwax sculpting— a hobby is a marvellous thing. As a creative, my hobby became my career and no sooner had it become a career than it became a job, the best job one could ask for, although not necessarily the easiest.
There are times when acting can become all-consuming. As a jobbing actor, there’s an enormous sense of guilt and anxiety that comes from pursuing anything that does not directly link back to acting, especially when auditions are scarce. Actors must make sacrifices. Such sacrifices include but are not limited to: A stable income, relationships, holidays, sociable working hours and health — vitamins cost money, and I've yet to see a zero-hour contract job that offered sick leave. For the most part, this is fine, we knew what we were signing up to right? Well, I mean I thought the first year or two were gonna be tough, sure, but I’d really hoped to be swilling fine brandies and using my awards to play 10 pin bowling with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart by now.
Whilst the last example is extravagant to the point of being wildly unrealistic (unless of course Ian or Patrick are reading this, in which case please, please call me) I don’t think creatives should settle for the polar opposite either. We deserve to feel happy, and too many of us, myself included, derive our sense of self-worth and therefore happiness from whether or not we’ve had an audition recently. To survive this industry we must enjoy the journey and perhaps the way to do that, is to simply step away from it from time to time.
Recently, I did just that and joined a rugby team. It’s a decision I still don’t fully understand, other than the fact that I was desperate to feel less miserable and rugby seemed like such a scary sport, there’s no way you can possibly think of anything else but staying alive while you’re playing it. In my ignorance, I expected the rugby scene to be dominated by the same types of people that used to make life difficult for a drama nerd like me, the kind of people who, frankly, my flawless impression of Gollum eating raw fish would be absolutely wasted on.
Instead, what I found was a community, a collection of people from various different backgrounds who share a love of the game. In my experience, anyone who is willing to put on a jersey and give it a go is treated with kindness and respect. I wasn’t alienated, despite having no idea how to play. I was given permission to make mistakes. I was never rushed or pressured into doing anything before I was ready and when the time finally came to play a full match, my team supported me. They made a game that terrified me as a child, actually fun!
I felt awash with the warm glow of camaraderie and by the end of that day, I had gained a great many things. A new lease of life for one, about 12 stitches to my left eyelid after running headfirst into a member of the opposition, but most importantly, an understanding of how wonderful it would be if we as actors and creatives just allowed ourselves to exist outside of the industry. If we tried things unrelated to acting just for the sheer joy of it instead of worrying whether or not it’s productive.
And so, good people of Spotlight, I leave you with this — take up your yo-yos, your paper-mache models, your teeny tiny wooden sailing ships that reside inside of bottles. Give yourselves permission to be the newbie. Learn, get better, hell, get worse, who cares so long as you’re having fun! Go forth unto the roller discos and the salsa halls and when you return to take up your ruff and poor Yorik’s skull once more, do so with a rejuvenated spirit and remember what a privilege it is to be an actor and to be alive at all. You got this champ, go out there and have fun— or as we say in the world of rugby “1, 2, 3, SQUEEZE!!!”
Charles is an actor and writer living in London. Charles studied a BA in Acting at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and graduated in 2017.
Since then, he has worked in both stage and film and more recently has taken up writing which, he was surprised to learn, is actually kind of fun.
Charles’ upcoming projects include a Romcom indie feature which begins filming this summer and a short series he has written with a few friends titled Denizens of the Deep - a mockumentary about monster hunting in Lewisham.
When he's not acting or writing, Charles can be found playing on the wing for Greenwich RFC.