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Don’t Wait for Permission: Making the Bucket List a Reality

We all have a list of some sort. The roles that inspired us to get into acting in the first place, the pie in the sky projects, the dream script. The goals that keep us hustling through the bread and butter projects. But waiting around for those dreams to come true can be disheartening, and ultimately unproductive. But how to make your bucket list a reality? Here are some things I find helpful to keep in mind.

Don’t wait for permission. I truly think this is the biggest hurdle. As artists and especially actors, we are used to having to wait to be given roles and opportunities by professionals with more authority. They have the money, the scripts, the venues, the seniority…and while that is an undeniable aspect of the industry structure, it is not the only way you’ll get to play your dream role. You have the power to create your own opportunities. The first step is to decide you’re going to make it happen yourself.

Set your intentions. Being clear and specific about your goals will help focus your efforts to achieve them. What bucket list roles or projects are most important to you? Trying to get everything done at once will spread you too thin. Narrow down your list and pour your energy into pursuing those most important things. I also find that when you have those specific goals clear and present in your mind, you’re more likely to see and take advantage of the right opportunities.

Banish self doubt. This might be the hardest one for me. But that little voice that says you’re not being realistic, you don’t deserve it, other people will never see you in that role? Tell them to pack their bags. That inner critic will stop your dream projects before they start. I always thought it would be fun to write lyrics and book for a musical, but hesitated for years because my training and experience was largely in non-musical theatre and film. But once I ignored that voice in my head I was able to connect with like minds, found a project we were excited about, applied for a grant, and I just produced and directed the first iteration of a children’s musical I wrote with a friend. It never would have seen the light of day if I had listened to early doubts.

Call on your resources. Remember that you are not the only one that can make your dreams come true. Keeping your dream role or project secret might feel safer, but the more you talk about it with friends and colleagues, the wider the net of people who can refer you to the right opportunities. No one can help connect you with the right people or venues if no one knows you’re looking. Of course some discretion is wise–it’s always good to be cautious of who you trust with important information. But finding those people and resources you do trust is a crucial step in the journey to creating your own opportunities.

Get creative. Often we get stuck thinking goals can only be accomplished in a certain way, dream roles only “count” if certain people cast you or if you were paid a certain amount for it or a million other qualifiers we apply when measuring success. But that mindset can be so limiting. It can blind us to opportunities to do the work we really care about. The way stories are told and distributed is ever-evolving. Don’t be afraid to be part of that evolution. Something that helps me sometimes is asking myself questions. Take an honest look at each obstacle that is preventing you from reaching your goal and as what if. What if you came at it from a different angle, worked with different people, chose a different medium? If you can’t go through a roadblock, make your own path around it.

An acting career is not a test where you have to show your work. No one is going to show up at the end of your career and tell you whether or not you did it the “right” way. Find a way to do the work that matters to you.

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