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Colleenby Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix

This month:  Get ready to take on the new year.

Hey, actor-person! How ready are you to greet the new year? Do you know what you want out of it? Do you have a plan for getting it? Check your ideas against the following list and see if you can’t  find an idea or two to help make your journey easier, simpler or just plain old possible.

1Put together your mobile office. Buy one of those divided plastic document wallets at an office supply store. Fill the sections with:

  • headshots & resumes, scratch paper to capture ideas,
  • postcards/stamps/addresses to dash off when you have spare time at auditions, etc.
  • clipped and stapled magazine articles, printouts of web pages, other light reading materials for down time

2. Put together your home office. If you haven’t cleared out one area for all the stuff you need to be a good actor-marketer, take this lull time to do it now. Even if you don’t have a whole room (or chunk of room), you can put together a beefed-up version of your mobile office by filling a plastic container with headshots & resumes, files of ideas for projects, scenes for classes & workshops, staples, tape, etc.

3. Get a marketing plan together. My favorite uber-organizer quotes his favorite uber-organizer all the time: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” While that’s maybe a little harsh, getting a program together for anything will give you a better chance of actually accomplishing it. When I was a beginning actor, my marketing plan looked something like this:

  • Buy Back Stage West and submit to breakdowns (weekly)
  • Send letters or cards to five CDs or industry people (weekly)
  • Read one play (weekly)
  • See one movie or watch one on DVD (weekly)
  • Send thank-you postcards for auditions (per audition)
  • Send show invites & follow-up cards (as needed, but prepare for this)

Today, your marketing plan would likely include such things as website maintenance, reel updating, picture/resume updating, emailing, pod casting, or blogging as well as mailing. Whatever it is, set up a schedule, write it in your calendar and then follow it!

4. Get in a class that challenges you. As an artist —hell, as a human being—you cannot afford to stagnate. If you’re not in a class that is kicking your ass at least every other week, it’s time for a new one. Even the best teachers and classes can become useless if you’re not actively learning new things. Plus, it’s good to keep challenging yourself, to keep your edge. For more on how to pick a good class, check out last month’s column.

5. Organize a play-reading group. Never underestimate the power of working your craft regularly. Plays are expensive and time-consuming to mount; getting a reading group is exponentially easier. It might evolve into something bigger, it will probably open your head and heart to new material and ideas, and it will definitely keep you sharp.

6. Organize a support or mastermind group. In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill talks about the benefits of working your goals with a group of like-minded people who hold each other accountable. Read up on it (the book is widely available new, used, and at the library), Google it, do it. I’ve been doing an informal version of one for years and the change it’s fostered has been nothing short of staggering.

7. Put together some fresh play lists or burn some new CDs to work out to. It’ll help keep you motivated.

8. Get a small notebook and pen and carry them with you everywhere. If you have an idea and lose it, it’s like you never had it. Get in the habit of always carrying a capture device, and use it!

9. Reassess your wardrobe. My very successful actress friend, Marisa, does this at the start of every season. She “shops” in her closet and puts together fresh looks for the season. Then she literally gathers them together on hangers, complete with accessories. It takes the thinking out of getting dressed in the morning, like having a series of uniforms to wear. It’s also a great chance to purge your wardrobe of outdated stuff. You can fill in with whatever small pieces you’re missing.

10. Make a study of one thing. This is a great, year-long plan. Pick an inspiring-to-you actor, playwright, director, screenwriter, theater company, author, etc. Old character actors are great for this, since their careers span many genres. Research what they’ve done (hint: IMDb!!!) and work your way through the canon. You’ll gain insight into the process from observing that person or group’s trajectory, you’ll discover other artists and ideas along the way, and the focus of “one” is a good discipline to keep you on track.

11. Join a museum and go regularly. Don’t be a dummy actor. Learn about other modalities of expression. Sometimes, the best way to tackle a problem is sideways.

12. Figure out your goals and write them down. I wrote a column about goals last January that might be helpful with this.

And now, it’s your turn: what kinds of things do you want to know about in the coming year? What is helpful or inspiring about this column to you? Have you taken any of the ideas or information I’ve written about and successfully put it into action?

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BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: With multiple demands on your attention (not to mention the stress of family gatherings, crowded stores, and Mass Holiday Fever), this time of the year can be tricky for reading. My suggestion is not to stop, but to adapt: enjoy a collection of engrossing (no pun intended!) interviews with actors and other artists; pick up a  book of short stories; or re-read an old inspiring or engrossing favorite you haven’t picked up in a while. Just don’t give up—reading makes you smarter and keeps you saner!

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-layabout who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.