Acting Playwriting

When to listen and when to not

“I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” G. K. Chesterton

When you’re young, people love to tell you what to do. Let’s face it, it’s not just when you’re young – there’s always someone who wants to tell you what to do when: young, old, middle aged, doesn’t matter.

This is especially true in the arts. Somehow, Joe Blow doesn’t tell his accountant or his dentist how to do his job, but he’s so sure he knows how to become an actor. And he’ll tell you how to do it too. Cause you’re not doing it right. And he knows.

Now, of course, sometimes people want to give good advice. And they have good advice; they’ve been through a similar situation and have the experience to back up their advice. Hearing someones experiences can be extremely valuable.

Some people are sincere even though their advice is bad. Usually it’s because they’re afraid for you: “Don’t do such and such because of such and such.” Don’t be an actor because you’ll starve. Don’t be an actor because it’s hard to make it.

And some people fear you will succeed and give advice to hopefully derail you. Which is truly wackadoodle, but that’s the way it is. Some people do wackadoodle things.

So, you want to become an actor, and you’re wondering where to go and what to do and as you wonder you get some advice. When do you listen and when do you (politely) ignore the advice you’re given?

  • Ignore: “The world will end of you become an actor.” Any fear based advice often reflects more on the giver than the givee. The world may end if you become a dentist too.
  • Ignore: “You have to have a back up plan.” The problem with back up plans, is that you’re not spending all your time on your intended plan. Now, you still need to pay your bills and such, (As a writer, being a temp was the best pay your bills gig I ever had – writing plays looks a lot like office work….) but getting a degree “to fall back on” won’t help you become an actor.
  • Listen: “Hey, here’s a company to check out, based on what you told me it sounds right up your alley.” All right, kind of long but this is the gist – anyone who listens to you when you talk about what you want to do, and then provides an action for YOU to do (rather than lecturing) is someone to listen to. In good advice, there should be an action that you can follow up with on your own. Then you decide for yourself if it’s going to be useful. There is no command in good advice, there is a suggestion and a possible action.
  • Ignore: “You’ll never….” It’s interesting when someone is so certain they know your future. They KNOW for a FACT that you’ll never make it, you’ll never stand out, you’ll never if you don’t do this and the other. The only person who can make something happen or not happen is you.

Here’s Ann Hu’s account of how she ignored some advice and trusted her own instincts to become an actor.

About the author

Lindsay Price