Want to know how to nail the whole multi-tasking, multi-career thing? Amber Anderson - the actress, model, pianist and activist, to name merely a few of her many talents - may just be the inspiration we need. Born in Somerset and raised in the north of Scotland, she grew up playing the violin and piano, before being scouted as a model in her teens and swiftly coming to the world’s attention as the face of Burberry when she was 19. A flurry of roles, on both the small and big screen followed, and next year we’ll see her in the much-anticipated new adaptation of Emma. A life between film sets means organisation, is the key to balance for Amber. From her beloved Smythson diary, to the importance of mediation and piano playing, this is her to do list. Amber, over to you.
“When I’m filming, I feel that it’s important for me to shake everything off at the end of the day and allow myself to truly land back into my real life as much as possible. Some days that’s easier to do than others, but generally speaking I try and make sure I schedule Sunday roasts or drinks with my main circle of friends as regularly as possible. There’s something magical about getting lost in the filming bubble for a few months, but it’s nice to stay connected with reality too.
After almost 11 months of intense filming I am finally taking some time for myself, it’s not always easy to do that but its critical to recovery and building up inner resources. I recently did an amazing retreat called The Bridge where we talked about the ‘Six Tent Pegs of Happiness’ - I try and live by this mantra now. It’s easy to feel that you have to just wait for the phone to ring, and slowly you realise how good it feels to do something off your own back, even if it never amounts to anything. It’s emboldening and confidence-giving. So now I try to fill my time off with productivity, not just hanging around and seeing friends.
I find that if I don’t hand write plans and to-do lists, I get disoriented. There’s something about the physical act of writing something down that imprints it into your memory. I do have a semi-photographic memory, so that is how I learn best. I have bought a Smythson diary every year now for almost 10 years and I cannot live without it! I use the blank page next to the week for to-do lists, lists of people I have to pay, things to-do that week that's a priority. Then I use the notebook at the back for longer bits of writing.
I find that being organised has a huge effect on my mental health, and I get overwhelmed easily if I’m not on top of everything, so I love to-do lists. It collates everything in my head and helps me to go through things methodically. I used to be incredibly messy and disorganised, but I guess as with all of us, adult life comes knocking and it becomes a necessity that has such an impact on how smoothly life goes. I suppose I became physically tidier when I went from more student type living to renting my own place - I wanted to take care of my space and feel proud of it. I now feel that in some ways, not being organised is, for me personally equates to a lack of self-care.
When it comes to work I really try, as much as possible, to make decisions not based on the money, that is key. It’s usually based on the material - the quality of writing, how interesting the character is or whether the character is going to allow me to explore a part of myself I haven’t before. Equal to that will be the people leading the project and crew members who can really make or break a filming experience, and after having some less-than-nice experiences on set (as sadly we all have), if my instincts tell me that someone will be difficult or disrespectful of boundaries then I won’t even go near it. I’m also very sensitive generally so if there’s something in the source material that I intuitively don’t want to put myself through, then I think about that, too; I’ve learned now that I don’t react well to horror, for instance.
I try and use the natural gaps between jobs as well as I can, and it’s very useful to do that to avoid going a bit mad. I’ve learned now that if I don’t keep exercising the creativity muscle while I’m ‘unemployed’, then I begin to really overthink things. So, I try to write and take piano lessons as much as possible. I’m very lucky to have the piano as a passion because I can set myself goals of exams I’d like to sit, or pieces I’d like to master. Some pieces could take six months to get really good, so there’s a lot there to keep me busy.
I wish my younger self knew that not everything has to be a strain and you don’t constantly have to be hyper vigilant and in control. Things will come to you naturally and will always work themselves out. Enjoy every moment and learn as much as possible. Listen more. For me as long as I get to spending time in nature, eat good food and enjoy some red wine, all is good.