“Creating health and peace in my life helps me cope with stress and the chaos of being an artist and a semi introverted neurotic in a fast-paced world.”

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photo credit: Farrah Aviva

About Sarah Goodwill

Sarah Goodwill is a Vancouver based theatre, film and television actress. Since obtaining her BFA in Theatre from UBC, Goodwill has explored all sides of the creative theatrical process. Her television credits include appearances in ‘Stargate SG-1’, ‘Hope Island’ and feature film, ‘Eadweard’. She created and performed her one-woman show, The Five Stages of Grief’ in 2011. The following year, she wrote, produced and directed a full cast in her film-noir murder mystery, “Stages of Sin.” A dedicated writer and dancer, Goodwill performs poetry and live music burlesque at various events around the city.

The Interview

1. What is the force that drives you forward? What fuels your ambition?

I think that my fear and sense of competition can fuel ambition, and I try to veer away from that voice as much as possible. I think my real ambition is fuelled by that unknown ‘need’ to create and to share that joy of creation.

I’m not sure I can completely explain it, but it feels like there is this ignited fire that can only be dissipated by getting that idea, emotion or concept in your heart/head/body out into the world.

Sometimes I’ll just be driving and hear a song come on and my entire being just goes into ‘create’ mode and I feel like I need to express this desire in a tangible way; on stage, through movement or dance or dialogue. My impatience is painful sometimes. I think a lot of my need to move forward or create art is fuelled and inspired by my emotional body or the duality that we all posses in our darkness and beauty.

2. Can you talk about your greatest “failure”? (something that led to your most significant shift in consciousness, and made you who you are today).

It’s hard to label one the ‘greatest’ as there are a lot of projects that haven’t gone the way I’d like them to… Ultimately I think the failure of a few significant relationships in my life (and therefore my relationship with myself) have pushed me to do a lot of internal work and become the person I am today. I think my greatest personal ‘failure’ was believing, on a subconscious level, that love and validation came from outside of myself.

In my experience it is relationships that push you to evolve and grow the most. Of course I also see growth through my career and artistic en devours, but I don’t think it even comes close to having to inspect yourself under a magnifying glass like you often do in intimate or familial relationships.

3. Are you happy? What does happiness mean to you?

I can honestly say that I am happier now then I think I have been in a very long time.

I try to cultivate happiness from within as much as possible, but I can often fall into the trap of believing my life would be better if I could just land that role, or get to that next level of success. Happiness to me, above all other things, is health. It is love. It is gratitude. It is making a living doing what you feel you were meant to do. Pursuing your dreams, but feeling like you’re enough just where you are at. Being grounded. Freedom. Independence. Financial security is nice too.

4. What do you think is your greatest strength? On the reverse, can you identify a personal challenge (something you currently struggle with)?

I think I’m good at taking care of myself physically, I find it easy to eat clean, go to yoga, exercise, and create a peaceful organized space because I know these things help me a lot. Creating health and peace in my life helps me cope with stress and the chaos of being an artist and a semi introverted neurotic in a fast-paced world. I find it more difficult to manage my mind, though I am getting better.

It’s been an ongoing struggle to challenge and change my thought patterns.

I continue to work on thinking and acting from a place of love instead of fear. To let go of constant inner criticism. And to be more trusting. To trust those around me, trust the universe and ultimately to trust myself. Sometimes I struggle with practicality and patience as well..

5. When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist? Can you talk about that moment or time in your life?

I think I always knew I wanted to be an artist and I resisted it too because I was told how hard it would be. Especially for someone like me. For me, being extremely sensitive to rejection (and a bit of a hedonist) it’s been a rocky road. I think I always wanted to act through, no matter how many other paths I tried to convince myself I could pursue. I’ve always been in love with the movies. I love the way they bring stories to life and create a sense of human connection. I fell in love with acting at 5 years old. My dad was a producer for many years and I would sit on an apple box watching the actors on set, just totally in awe. I wanted to be just like them when I grew up.

6. Habits, routine, morning rituals — What are the positive things you do daily that have had the most significant impact on your life and work?

I don’t want to be another Vancouver cliche, but I don’t know how I was surviving before I found yoga. It helps me so much in this busy world. I just feel better any day I can sweat and/or meditate. I was attending meditation classes this summer and that helped me immensely.

I try to create a bit of a routine, but I don’t hold a gun to my own head about it, because I find that too limiting.

I leave myself a lot of time in the morning to wake up and process because I’ve always been pretty slow to enter the world. I drink a few glasses of warm lemon/ginger water and just try to be ok with the concept of sitting still. Sometimes, if I feel like it, I write down my dreams. I write down my ideas and my goals. I collect quotes and images that inspire me. I try my best to avoid the digital world for the first hour of waking up, but it doesn’t always work.

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photo credit: Allistair Eagle
7. How do you deal with doubt? Where do you go for support?

I do what it takes to feel confident. If it’s an audition or role I work it with an actor I trust and ask for feedback. I talk to my girlfriends (we work out a lot over the phone), I try to mediate or do something that makes me feel grounded. I try to change my thought patterns. I surround myself with those I love who believe in me when I can’t believe in myself. My grandmother is the absolute best for that. And when all else fails I give in to my man’s legitimate advice:

Sometimes you just need to let it go and watch a stupid movie.

8. What, in your opinion, are the qualities of someone who is a “great” artist (in whatever discipline)? 

I think a great artist takes criticism well and incorporates lessons and experiences to grow. At the same time a true artist won’t let others influence prevent them from following their own heart. I think it’s very important to cultivate trust in yourself as an artist. I really look up to those artists who can say ‘fuck it’ and just put themselves out there regardless of other’s judgments. Great artists take risks.

9. Any advice for artists on a similar path? (Perhaps advice you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out).

I think as artists, we beat ourselves up a lot because we are part of a society that pushes external successes and monetary gain. We can often feel like our art isn’t ‘good enough’, ‘relevant’ or ‘valid’. When your work is literally your physical and emotional self (like a performing artist or actor) it’s really really hard to avoid the common human fear of ‘not enough’. I would suggest a practice of self-love in some respect.

Yoga and therapy are good, but also having a hobby like gardening, surfing, cooking, dancing, hiking, writing, stamp collecting or kickboxing… it doesn’t matter as long as you have something in your life that you love doing besides being an artist. You need to move that energy around when you aren’t able to practice your art. As artists we’ve got all this emotional energy inside us and if you don’t move it around with some kind of passion it gets stagnant I think.

I also think its essential to have some other hobby and/or practice that helps you not be totally defined and therefore torn apart by your art.

A director friend once told me that it helps to always have some sort of artistic project of your own in development. That way you don’t feel like you’re just sitting around ‘waiting’ for someone else to give you permission to be an actor.

It also makes that question, ‘So what have you done lately’ a little less painful.

I’m trying to come to terms still with the idea that you are an actor because you practice and develop your art, not because you make a certain amount of money doing it, or work with the most reputable theatre company in town. You need to be able to call yourself an actor or artist because you embody it. Not because someone else deems you worthy of the title. It’s true what they say, no one else will believe in you if you don’t first.

10. Ever experience flow/being in the zone? What does it feel like for you, and can you tell us about a time when you experienced it?
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photo credit: Lucas David Morgan

I feel like I am in the flow when I give myself completely over to the moment. When I am fully present without dwelling on what has just happened or what will happen a minute from now. That’s why getting out of my head (and into my body) before entering the audition room is so important. I feel like we automatically go there when we are experiencing true pain, joy or connection. I’ve experienced it in my acting whenever I give myself permission to just let go and not be attached to results.

I just closed a show titled ‘Listen to Me’ created and put on by Resounding Scream Theatre. It was a huge exercise in presence, vulnerability and connection as the show was audience interactive and set up like a speed dating event. The experience demanded absolute presence as we were interacting with one audience member at a time and not ‘performing’ a rehearsed scene with another actor. It was not only fascinating to see how our words affected the audience but also how their presence or lack thereof influenced our performance experience.

11. What is your favourite book? It could be about your craft, or maybe just an excellent story. If that is too difficult to answer, who are your favourite authors?

It’s hard to pick absolute favorites. For fiction, I love classics: Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, Hemingway. I’m a fan of Palanuik, Bukowski and Paulo Coelho. For acting Larry Moss, Ivana Chubbuk and “The Second Circle” by Patsy Rodenburg are great, but I find acting books a bit dry and I much prefer actually training to reading about acting technique.

Lately I’ve been really into autobiographies and self help to be honest. Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra and Pema Chodron are well-known and great. I recently read Lena Dunham’s new book and I can’t decide whether I hated it or liked it.

Check out the favourite books by the other interviewees

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Sarah Goodwill: I do what it takes to feel confident, but it’s been an ongoing struggle to challenge and change my thought patterns.
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These conversations are about the creative soul. They are the true experiences of creatives with their own creative impulse, and they are the private (made public) reflections on what creativity feels like on a very personal level. All interviews are conducted by Christine Bissonnette
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