This is not news, what I’m about to say, so if you’re looking for hot takes, keep surfing. But here it is:
In writing and in performing, the artist creates and polishes and practices and presents, with the hope of acceptance and validation. We spend hours behind the scenes, writing and rewriting, choosing music and polishing monologues. Then we present our work—ourselves—to the people who have the power to employ us, publish us, market us, pay us.
And statistically speaking, it often doesn’t work out.
I served on a panel for performers recently, and we spoke to a roomful of kids who’re also interested in performing. One of them asked me how often I get the job, which is a loaded question, but a fair one. So I did some quick, very unscientific math in my head and came up with this: I get a callback about 50% of the time. Of those callbacks, I get the job about 30% of the time. In writing, it’s similar; with regard to full manuscript requests, I’d say it splits the difference. Probably 40% of the time.
This means, on average, that 60% of the time, I get nothing. Nada. Zilch.
For a very long time, I equated that with talent, or lack thereof, thinking that this 60% meant that I was unqualified or untalented or unable to meet some kind of preconceived notion for who I was supposed to be.
But I’ve come to a place of understanding here, that gives me peace and also annoys the heck outta me.
So, so often, it has nothing to do with me. I mean, sure, I have to come in prepared and I have to deliver. So, so often, these choices are made based on variables that are outside of my control and above my pay grade. I believe in the book I’m pitching, the one that’s gotten lots of read requests but no proposals. I believe in the quality of my performance, like in the audition I gave earlier this week. I gave them everything I had and I knew it went well, and still. No callback came.
Does that sting? Of course it does. And yet, the place I’ve reached in this stage of my career (or at least on this particular week) is this: it wasn’t my turn. And that’s okay. It can’t be my turn every time. That’s ludicrous. My style of performance isn’t for every show. My book isn’t for every publisher.
There is no failure here. There is only the gathering of information. The only true failure comes if I actually give up.
And I refuse to do that.
In this brilliant documentary about auditioning—it’s called SHOWING UP and you should definitely watch it if you’re a creative whose works depends on the ‘yeses’ of others—Chris Messina speaks my heart. Watch. Learn. Be the clown, tip your hat, and move on.