I write book reviews only rarely, which is not to say I do not have opinions about books. I have opinions about pretty much everything. Even ice trays. I could do a whole thing on the shoddy state of today’s ice-tray technology, but…uh…how about I save that for another time.
The other day, someone dropped a copy of a slender volume through my transom window, and after reading it a couple of times, and finding it both entertaining and informative, thought I’d pass along a few particulars.
It’s called To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and a Starving Artist, and it was written by actor and arts consultant Sean Pratt.
Right off the bat, I’d like to point out that I am—in no way—an actor (though I played one on TV). But one of the nifty things about this book is that you needn’t be an actor to get a whole stack of quality information and career guidance from Mr. Pratt. He has been counselling actors, young and old, for almost two decades 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…uh…most of Manhattan Island between SoHo and Times Square. Many of the differences illuminated by Mr. Pratt are applicable to artists and craftspeople navigating all sorts of different creative trajectories.
My personal favorite is Difference #1: The Successful Actor Takes Responsibility for His Career. (Throughout the volume, Mr. Pratt gives equal stage time to both the masculine and feminine pronouns, so put your PC stick away and shut the hell up.) I like Difference #1 for the simple and obvious reason that it applies widely across multiple disciplines.
Mr. Pratt defines 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, design websites, or whatever—into its mid-season form.
Here is an example from my world. I’ve met lots of people who call themselves writers, but when I ask what they’ve published, or even what they are currently working on, the humming and hawing starts. Eventually they reveal that they do not, actually, write. Not much, anyway, or very often. And this confession is immediately followed by their excuses: I need a new computer; I need to finish school; I work too many hours; All the good ideas have already been done; I need to do more research; 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 Mr. Pratt’s calculation, and that word is laziness.
Putting it as succinctly as possible: If you are not happy with your career, cancel Netflix, get off your sofa, 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 how to get there.
All in all, To Be or Wanna Be is a wonderful little read, and stuffed with more quality information and ideas than a Tea Party rally is stuffed with irate imbeciles. And, let me say it one more time, it doesn’t matter what segment of the creativerse you desire as your personal fiefdom, Mr. Pratt’s book will aid you on your way. You can get a hard copy of the book here, and the audiobook version here.
So? What are you waiting for? Read it the damn thing.
About Sean Pratt
Sean Pratt, (AEA / SAG / AFTRA), has been a working actor for over 25 years. Sean was a company member at The Pearl Theatre, an Off-Broadway classical repertory theatre and has also performed at numerous regional theatres around the country. Major films include: Gods and Generals, Tuck Everlasting and Iron Jawed Angels. Television work includes: The host of HGTV’s, Old Homes Restored, and supporting roles on Homicide, The District and America’s Most Wanted. He has been an audiobook narrator for 19 years (under the name Lloyd James), recording over 800 books in almost every genre. He has received 7 AudioFile Magazine “Earphones” awards and 4 “Audie” nominations from the Audio Publishers Association.
Currently, Sean coaches performers on audiobook narration technique, as well as teaching classes on and writes articles about the business of the Biz. For more information, visit his website.