I don’t often write book reviews, which is not to say I do not have opinions about books. I have opinions about pretty much everything. Except light switches. I have no sentiments one way or the other on light switches. But anyway. For the most part I don’t write book reviews because I don’t feel like I’m qualified to, but then someone dropped a copy of a slender new volume through my transom window, and after reading it a couple of times, I decided to write about it. Still don’t feel qualified to do so, but there it is.
The book in question? To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and a Starving Artist, by Sean Pratt. I’d like to say that it’s a splendid book for actors and leave it at that, but brevity isn’t necessarily always the soul of blogging, so stand by for a few hundred more words.
Right at the outset, let’s get one thing straight: I am, in no way, an actor (though I played one on TV). That being said, one needn’t be an actor to get a whole pile of good information and career guidance from Mr. Pratt’s book. He has been advising actors, young and old, for a good number of years now, and is himself a successful actor, so he knows whereof he speaks.
The volume is divvied up into, as the title implies, Ten Differences between working actors and most of Manhattan Island, between SoHo and Times Square (or, in fact, the cast of Snow White and the Huntsman…) Many of the differences elucidated by Mr. Pratt (I think of them as being “rules,” in a good way) are applicable to artists and craftspeople plying numerous creative waters.
My personal favorite is “Difference #1: The Successful Actor Takes Responsibility for His Career,” (throughout, Pratt gives equal stage time to both the masculine and feminine pronouns, so put that PC stick away and keep reading, Skeezix). I like Difference #1 because it can apply so widely across disciplines. Mr. Pratt define “taking responsibility” as being “proactive” instead of “no-active.” As a writer with a small bit of success, I can tell you that this is the most important thing you can do in order to speed your career—whether you sing, act, dance, sculpt or whatever—into its mid-season form. I’ve met lots of writers over the years, usually in bars. But when I ask them what they’ve published, or even what they are currently working on, that’s when the humming and hawing kicks in. Eventually they let fly the news that, while telling every stranger they meet that they are writers, they do not, actually, write. Not much, anyway. Or very often. And then come the excuses: I can’t handle rejection; I need a new computer; I need to finish school; I don’t want to disappoint my mother; I was molested by my English teacher; blah-blah-blah-dee-blah. In too many cases, one word describes the “no-active” side of the equation, and that word is LAZINESS. Not happy with your career? Get off your ass and go do something about it!
Another of my favorites is Difference #6: The Successful Actor Builds a Network. Networking is vital to all creative endeavors—hanging with other members of your inspired species. In his discussion of the Difference, Mr. Pratt delves into the idea that building one’s network contains an element of self-promotion. That, it certainly does, but the trick is to master an ability to toot your own kazoo, without coming across like a gigantic douchebag. Now, I have never been shy about talking myself up to others, and have often been taken for a gigantic douchebag, but shit… I’m learning. And Mr. Pratt’s book gives some excellent tips on getting there.
All in all, To Be or Wanna Be is a wonderful little read, and more stuffed with quality information and ideas than a T-Bagger rally is stuffed with angry imbeciles. And, let me say it one more time, it doesn’t matter what segment of the creativerse you want as your personal fiefdom, Mr. Pratt’s book will aid you on your way.
So? What are you waiting for? Read it, asshole.