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My Oldest Drug

April 21, 2011

Hello, my name is Alexandra and I am an overcommitmentolic.

I have a very serious problem of saying “yes” much too much.  It’s not even that I’m a “people pleaser” as much as I love to be busy and when I see a tiny window of time in my schedule I think, “Oh goodness, I should fill that.”  Of course, what inevitably happens is that at some point it all becomes too much and things (mostly my mental health) suffer for it.

In the next month I am going to be going through a major change in my lifestyle.  I’ve had the amazing opportunity for the past two years of being able to pursue many wonderful experiences that pay little or no money and know that all of my essential needs will be taken care of.  That help dries up at the end of May of this year and I’ll have to support myself close that gap with a full-time job or multiple jobs (unless, of course, Broadway comes a-knockin’ in the next few weeks… it could happen… shhh stop giggling).

Having a full-time job, or working the equivalent of it between several jobs, is going to force me into a new kind of lifestyle.  One in which I can’t just do any project that catches my eye.  I’ll have to be very selective and do only the things I am wildly passionate about.

So, how do I choose my projects?

It’s time I developed a way to evaluate opportunities and, ultimately, decide whether to pick them up or pass on them.  Let’s try some questions:

What is the initial draw to this project?  Script?  Director?  Company?  Neil Patrick Harris in the lead? (note: I would lick the stage clean before curtain each night if it meant I got to hang with NPH.  Crazy?  Maybe.  Oh, well.)
How does this project help me to further my professional goals?
How does this project help me to satisfy my artistic appetite?
Who is attached to this project that I want to collaborate with?
What do I feel I bring to this project that no one else can?
How much time must I commit to ensure my work on this project is fully realized?

That feels like a good start.  Do you have certain questions you pose to yourself when deciding whether to work on a new show or project?

And for your viewing pleasure, this is what happens when you drink too much coffee so you can stay awake to get script changes to your stage manager, send lyrics to your writing partner, find your receipts for your accountant, track down AEA members for program copy approval, and grab a dollar slice of pizza…

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2011 10:11 am

    I totally know where you’re coming from on this, I have the same tendency to overcommit. Lately, I’ve been being much more selective about projects I work on and it has been really hard to figure out when to say yes and no. Thanks for some ideas for things to think about!

  2. The Practical Artist permalink
    April 21, 2011 1:18 pm

    100% where I’m at right now. I’ve tried the whole “no more AEA showcases” rule, but that’s not as realistic as it seems, exactly because of the questions you’ve posed (i.e. I need more practice calling a show as a PSM, so maybe showcases are a good start). But, unfortunately, there comes a point in our Artistic Career that we have to ask ourselves “does this project earn me enough to survive on.” That question comes into play when our Artistic Profession takes up so much time we can no longer afford the “survival job.” When that point happens, the first “nos” we say will be not only the most difficult, but the most satisfying.

    • May 10, 2011 10:40 am

      SO TRUE! In the past few months I’ve been able to turn down a couple of unpaid gigs and I was very proud of myself. In our business in particular there is a certain period of time when you do work for no pay, but when you get to the point where you have sharpened your skills set appropriately, you have to know your worth!

  3. California Triple-Threat permalink
    April 27, 2011 12:53 pm

    I don’t think this ever gets easier. For self-starters like me (and I’m sure all of us here) a busy schedule seems to equal a successful life. Even though this is often not true! Here’s to bigger projects that are worth our time, and the courage to say no to things that aren’t!

  4. May 8, 2011 12:11 am

    Great post! I was trying to see if there were any other questions I ask myself before taking on a project, and I can’t think of anything you didn’t already mention. Thanks for laying them out so thoroughly- I’ll probably come back to this post the next time I have a big decision to make!

  5. April 19, 2012 10:50 am

    I’ve run into this a lot in my own work.

    I started thinking in terms of “Love or Money” before accepting any gigs: love of the people and/or project, and money is either sufficient pay and/or career benefit.

    What I’ve had to start thinking about is post-multiple-project burnout. I realized that I can do a bunch of overlapping shows and enjoy them, but haven’t always taken recovery time into account. I’d really like to see someone address the idea of deliberately taking artistic down-time and how it will not actually make the world end.

    Great post!

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