To survive the long haul, you must know what you’re going to do to keep yourself proactive and creatively fulfilled when you’re not working. Likewise, you can never get so caught up in the world of acting that your only ‘reference for life’ is theatre, TV or film. Lisa Mulcahy (‘A Life In Acting’) talks about this actor problem at length, mentioning that:

(These actors) have no idea what’s going on in the real world, politically or culturally, (as) it’s ‘beneath’ their own lofty artistic interests.

Lisa Mulcahy

To become this type of actor is to lose sight of what it means to be an artist: ‘to hold the mirror up to nature’.

So what and where is this elusive space that fulfils the dual purpose of reinvigorating our creative souls and growing us as informed, grounded human beings?

During my time researching and preparing , a man by the name of David Bertholdt made a commencement speech at the Queensland University of Technology. Within it, he used a beautiful term to describe a metaphysical space which I have since borrowed and happily reused many, many times over (all credit to him) simply because it is so apt.

Bertholdt described this dual-purpose space as a ‘hinterland’ and defined it as:

That place on the outskirts of your life where the intellectual pursuits outside of your career thrive. The back paddock of ideas and influences that make us fuller.

David Bertholdt

His argument was that if you have a robust hinterland, you will not only become a better class of human being, but also have a place that will nurture you through the times of the greatest self-doubt. It is not a place where the inner critic can label you as an amateur. A retreat from the world of your career is not a form of weakness or a lack of drive on your part. It is an enrichment of the pool of human experience that feeds your knowledge and, therefore, your artistry. Remember talking about Career Obsession? To take a step away from the work is an essential calling for you as a functioning human being. It is as much a part of the natural attrition of your creative energies as sleep. That’s what it is: a form of creative sleep. A time where the creative body is granted permission to rebuild, reform and realign.

You will find a link to David’s entire speech in the REFERENCES & RESOURCES section of this site and I highly recommend reading it in full. Below is a selected excerpt which illustrates beautifully the power a well-established Hinterland can wield:   

“I know a surgeon who reads old Italian poetry – it reminds him that his patients are people with deep histories.

I know an urban planner who reads Stephen Jay Gould – he finds that it opens his mind to new ways of thinking.    

When he was Prime Minister, Paul Keating used to listen to Mahler or Bartók symphonies when he was reading cabinet papers at the Lodge. He said it made him think bigger. 

It’s too easy to get trapped in the small circle of our work, caught in a cycle of tasks and deadlines and conferences. Our work might be interesting and important, but the world is always bigger, and it is ready to give up its gifts. A rich hinterland makes our doctors more empathetic, our teachers more exciting, our politicians more human and our scientists more creative.”