We've been on a bit of an autobiography bender lately. So much so, we spent proper time debating our faves and compiling a list of our top five for y'all.
A gift of deep-diving into a specific field or genre is that patterns quickly start to emerge. In this instance, reading several memoirs back-to-back revealed what a powerful tool hindsight can be.
It may seem odd to call hindsight a tool, but in a way, it is. Think about it: regardless of how we actually experienced an event in the past, hindsight enables us to reframe the situation in whatever way we choose. In each of the autobiographies we read, the authors had done just that. Specifically, they had all come to see a negative past experience as a positive, or at least as instrumental in their development and growth.
So, while you mightn't (yet) feel the need to publish your memoir, there may well be an argument for starting to write it.
Surprises from Memory Lane
There's a lot of future talk at the Dojo — setting goals, crafting Training Menus, and levelling up our mindset. This one, however, is going to be a little different. This one's gonna take us on a trip down memory lane.
In my own actor journey, I've watched peers I grew up training with and auditioning alongside achieve stratospheric success. We all had comparable years under our belt, we all had comparable (limited) opportunities in Western Australia, we all had comparable work ethics (if anything, I was the nerd often working three times harder).
And yet, these compadres soon found themselves working alongside the likes of Kate Winslet, J. K. Simmons, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, and Toni Collette. These homies soon found themselves represented by CAA and WME. These amigos soon found themselves flown to Cannes, Toronto International Film Festival, and Marvel red carpets worldwide.
But this isn’t intended to be a pity party (though, #notgonnalie, there've been some challenging moments).
When I went through this exercise, I realised many a thing. The most pertinent being this: if I'd had the same trajectory as my peers — if I'd catapulted from Perth to the A-List in a similar fashion — I wouldn't have experienced the pits of frustration, jadedness, and self-doubt. Therefore, I wouldn't have become obsessed with researching and innovating ways for actors to empower themselves. Therefore therefore, I wouldn't have started the Dojo.
Granted, we aren't Greenpeace — our reach is still relatively small. But for the circle we do embrace, we (occasionally) strike a chord. We (hopefully) provide a safe space in which celebrations and rages and tears are allowed and 1000% understood. We aren't Greenpeace, and yet, this is some of the most meaningful work I've ever done.
Recognising this changed the game for me. Like, I'm talking the whole entire freaking game — dodgeball to dominoes. And this was just one gift of the exercise.
What gold lies buried in your story?
Memoir Writing 101
This exercise is pretty self-explanatory, but the whole jam-izzle is worth ritualising.
- Set the stage. Put a time, date, and location in the calendar. Decide the vibe — coffee or tea? Music or no? Candlelight or sunshine?
- Tool up. For those who think better through the written word, reach for a pen and paper or open a note on yo’ trusty device. For those who think better through the spoken word, try a voice memo or vlog-style approach.
- Start from the very beginning. Aim to capture as many factual plot points from day one on the actor's path to today. Focus on the objective events, less so on the response at the time. Quick *: We may need to loop back a couple of times as we remember more of our journey. That's normal. Don't expect this to look neat and clean (sorry, fellow perfectionists).
- Survey the landscape. Once we've mapped the terrain, it's important to take a hot second to appreciate the story thus far. We don't do this anywhere near as frequently as we should, but we'll likely find we've already proven ourselves to be a pretty cool protagonist.
- Circle the wins. It don't matter how "small" we perceive our wins to be. Spotlight them. A bonfire starts with a few tiny sparks. Circle these bad boys so we can return to them when the going gets tough.
- Underline the challenges. This is the meat of the exercise and where we really want to rock our hindsight glasses. It takes some deep work to see challenges as meaningful in the moment, but it's a little more accessible when we've had some time. Underline every "negative" plot point from the past. Then, for each obstacle, ask: "What was the gift of this?", "What did this lead to?", "Who would I be if this hadn't occurred?". Scribble some notes. Spitball some musings. Intend to find gold, and gold will be found.
If what you have before you looks like a five-year-old's art project, you've probably done this right. If you're feeling even microscopically more at peace with your hero's journey to date, you 100% have.
We look forward to nerding out over your definitive autobiography one day, but in the meantime, let us know what this exercise uncovered. You wouldn't be reading this if you weren't an absolute ninja human, so we'd love to have a read.
Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.