Stepping Toward A Dream

Live Your Dream image with resume, pen, person jumping with joy, four leaf clover, and horseshoeFor three days this week, as part of my day job, I helped oversee over 400 actors who came in to do a monologue or sing for 41 different organizations. The organizations included theater companies, casting agents, tour companies, educational theater companies, and playwrights. As I checked each person in, collected their headshots, directed them to the green room, and answered several dozen questions over and over again, I could not help but cheer them on. They were putting themselves out there, trying to take a step towards living their dream and being hired to act. It also made me think of my time standing in lines to pitch agents and editors, hoping to make a connection to move me forward to living my dream of being a published author. Over the years, I’ve come to realize a few truths that make these journeys easier, so I thought I’d share them here.

Preparation is key. Know your monologue or song. In the case of a writing, know your pitch. Be ready to deliver it. Get there with enough time to get mentally prepared if possible, but know it in your bones.

Do your best, and understand that your best isn’t always great. When I asked folks how they did, if they felt good about their audition, they glowed. If it didn’t land, or they went up on a line, they were unhappy that they blew that moment. But it was just that, a moment, and they needed to let it go. I remember meeting agents, and the conversation went well. Other meetings did not go as well. All you can do it your best, and move on.

Give folks what they ask for, otherwise you may get taken out of the running. If people didn’t staple their headshots correctly, or didn’t have easily accessible contact information, their headshot got returned by a lot of folks. When you are seeing dozens of people, you need ways to sort through the pile, and not following directions is one way to do that. When you are submitting a query, read what folks want, and follow those guidelines. Don’t improvise, or give them what you think they need. Sometimes following directions is the first test.

Know that sometimes it isn’t you, it’s just that it isn’t a good fit. For writers, it could mean that the agent you are pitching doesn’t think they can find a home for your work. Or an editor may not need your genre for their catalog. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a good writer. It means you haven’t found the right fit.

Attitude is everything. For actors who go into an audition, you never know who is checking you in. Those folks will be asked about how you were in the waiting room. For writers, remember that writing is solitary, but getting published is a community effort. Disappointment is part of the business. How you handle that disappointment becomes part of your reputation.

Practice radical gratitude. Being grateful for opportunities makes the artistic journey much easier. If you are only grateful when you get what you want, you are going to have a tough ride. An actor I know (who works a lot) told me that she considered auditioning her job, so she loved it. Getting a gig was her vacation. Being an artist isn’t easy. But how lucky are we to be called to the artistic journey? For that, I am grateful.

Do you know what else I am grateful for, dear readers? Opportunities to meet you in person! I have two coming up in the next few days.

On Sunday, April 15 Barbara Ross, Edith Maxwell, and Leigh Perry/Toni Kelner and I will be doing a talk back after a performance of Miss Holmes at the Greater Boston Stage Company. I’m very excited about my two worlds (theater and writing) colliding at this event, and am also looking forward to seeing the show!

On Wednesday, April 18 I am going to be at the Westwood Library with Hank Phillippi Ryan, Elizabeth Elo, and Stephanie Gayle doing a talk about plotting in different genres. More information is here.

In the comments, let me know what you’ve discovered on your journey so far. Tips that you wish you could give your younger self. . .

30 Thoughts

  1. Great parallels, Julie! I might add, Ask others for help. If someone can’t or won’t assist you, that’s fine, but most people love to lend a hand.

  2. Such excellent advice! I’m sharing this post with my friends at Pennwriters whose conference is coming up next month. Thanks, Julie!

  3. Worry less. It does nothing, but waste time and energy. Love more and deeply, family, friends, animals, flowers, whatever. Be grateful for everything even the little things.

  4. Great tips, Julie. I love the actress who said auditioning is the job, getting the gig is a vacation. I have to tell that to my actor friends. I’ve had writer friends on shows who tried to sneak in a day off for their birthdays. I’m always so grateful to be working that I consider the job my birthday present.

    And yes, attitude is everything, especially in show business. A writer I know told a story of something that happened when he worked on a popular network drama. The showrunner was looking to hire a writer and asked the room, “Anyone know____?” Another writer said, “Well -”
    The showrunner cut them off. “Enough said.” And threw out the resume.

    I’ve had to thumbs-down difficult actors to directors because no matter how billiant they were, they were impossible to work with. As an exec told me at my very first TV meeting, “It’s not about how talented you are. It’s about who the showrunner wants to be in the room with at three in the morning.” That also gives you an idea of some TV job hours!

    1. I love the quote from the TV show Delicious, which I will mangle, but it is something like, “Most chefs would cook for free for love. It’s putting up with the sh*t in the kitchen they pay us for.”

  5. Following directions is such a key point. I read about a rock band (I think it was Van Halen) who insisted they couldn’t have red M&M’s. People thought they were being divas, but in reality they knew if they had red M&M’s the venue had not read the directions of what they needed and that meant serious things could be overlooked. Always follow directions.

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