Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Make a Plan
The glib have said "failing to plan is planning to fail" which while soothingly concise, is usually something people say once stuff has gone wrong. Without a time machine we can't go back and make a plan we didn't make before. So the question is: what sort of plans do we want to make today, to move things where we want tomorrow?
Your plan, as an actor, can be as thorough as a full blown business plan, with expenses, liabilities and market forces incorporated, or can be what you'll do today, this week, or this year. Or it can be both. Your plan can be what you are working toward long term, strategically, for your career, and what you are doing short term, tactically, for your career. But don't make the mistake of planning for luck.
Planning for luck is things like planning to:
- Book 4 co-stars and 2 guest stars in the next 3 months
- Get called in by Awesome-Casting-Director-Number-1 this calendar year
- Win This-Super-Prestigious-Award in the next 6 months
Those aren't plans, they're goals, but more than that, they are dependent on things outside yourself doing very specific things; they are out of your control. They are things you can work towards, you can pursue them, but they are not yours to grant yourself. They require the 15-20 people who typically must approve of you being hired to do that on a timeline you have artificially manufactured based on nothing. They require that a specific person decide to take the specific action of calling you in. They require a jury or voting group to choose you. In short, they are all things requiring that people who are not you do specific things in an arbitrary period of time.
You can influence whether your goals are more or less likely, you can execute a plan. In fact, following a plan usually gets you closer to your goals. For the examples above here are some off-the-cuff ideas:
- Shoot something (even on your phone) that shows you doing great work similar to the shows you could book co and guest stars on.
- Send x number of pictures and resumes to the casting director over the next 6 months and coordinate with your agents/manager on how to get into that office.
- Hire an experienced awards publicist and run an effective award campaign for that award.
These are just ideas, and many others would also make sense. But the key difference is they are things you can do, a sequence of steps you can take without needing the outside world's immediate and specific cooperation. The only person's permission you need in order to follow a plan is yours. A plan may or may not give you the result you want, but it can make that result more likely, and it also can move you forward anyway. No one can say before hand what great things your plan may lead to that you haven't even imagined yet.
Much of this industry can be arbitrary. That doesn't mean that exerting your ironfisted control on everything will make that change. It can just make you tired. The waves in the ocean may arbitrarily move a ship, and you can still aim a ship for your destination. But don't think your aim will change the waves, or stop the storm that may come from time to time. Work with the water, aim around the storms, and you're more likely to get where you want to go. Work with the waves, seeking options that move you toward your goal, and respond to the realities (like storms) and caveats (like rocks) to avoid what you don't want and pursue what you do. So to with acting.
- Plan what you can do that seems like it can move you where you want to go.
- Be flexible and open minded enough to recognize and pursue unexpected opportunities as they appear, and change your plan as makes sense; mid-course corrections are your friend.
- Realize you will make some mistakes, try to set them right when you do and forgive yourself; learn from them.
- Work to be invested in what you do and unattached to the outcomes; you are the only person you can predictably exert control over.
In all cases, have fun, enjoy the process. This is your life, so find how to be happy now. Don't wait for all sorts of things outside of you to be just so before you let yourself be happy. All those other things may or may not end up as you want them, and certainly won't on exactly your schedule. So figure out what you can do, and do it while you live your life. A career is not a life, and luck is preparation meeting opportunity. So prepare. And live life. It's nice when the world gives us what we want, but not always something we can rely on. At the risk of bending grammar, we can count on ourselves to be there with us no matter what. Be kind to yourself. Breathe. Do what you can do, no more, no less.
A plan involves steps that are largely under your influence and control. A plan involves the hard and dreary and difficult work of a thousand brave steps, of doing things that might not work, of connecting and caring and bringing generosity when we don't think we have any more to bring.
When your plan works, take a bow. You earned it
(from Sure, but that's not a plan).
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