Saturday, March 19, 2011

Being choosy with your projects

The past few weeks I got off track on keeping the blog posts up to date.  This is due to a convergence of jobs and projects suddenly arising (like a Perfect Storm!). 

I just started a new job in external relations in the School of Drama at a prestigious private university, an opportunity that was just too exciting to pass up.  At the same time, I was invited to a wonderfully supportive and fun playwriting group that meets every few weeks.  I’m still also working as a teaching artist for an after-school program.  This weekend, I’ll be acting as a deranged cowboy for a short film that’s shooting on Sunday and a few days in April.  Right after that, I’ll be acting as Ian in Off the Wall Theater’s production of Conor McPherson’s Shining City.

Phew.

There are, of course, other auditions on top of that, as well as my own personal writing projects (which, sadly, I have been neglecting). One of those projects may be a public reading in June (more on that later).  Even maintaining this blog is a project that takes time and energy.

All of this is exciting and I’ve met a lot of talented folks, but now I’m at the point of overload.  There’s only so much time in the day and now I need to be more careful of what projects I devote my energy to.

So how do you choose what projects to work on?  There are some key factors to consider.

Is the project awesome?  
I don’t mean “awesome” in the blas√© sense, but the accurate definition of the word.  Is it a project you would kill for, something you’ve waited to do all your life, something you would work on for years and years and never get tired of it.  For instance, I’ve been working on this robot project for months and I’m still reading books and interested in the ideas and fascinated by what’s out there.  Every time I think about the project, I’m energized.  That’s the kind of work you should look for.

Are you the best person for this project? 
Sometimes you have to ask yourself, is this really the best fit for me?  Do you have the right skills, background and personality for the project? Some projects are a no-brainer. If you’re in doubt, it probably isn’t a project that’s right for you.  Recognizing that early on will save you headaches down the line. 

Who do you get to work with?  
Are they amazing and talented people?  Are they collaborators that you’ve worked with before and or new artists that you would kill to get to know?  You have to love the people you work with—life is too short and the pay is not enough to tolerate jerks or fools.

Does the project pay? 
In general, theater is not a money-making endeavor, but there are paying gigs out there of various levels.  Sometimes it’s a factor and sometimes not, but it can make a difference.  I probably wouldn’t pursue writing the book for a Broadway musical but if Julie Taymor asked me to and Disney fronted the money, I don’t know that I could turn down the production of “Iron Man: The Musical”*.  Well, on second thought…
(*As far as I know, there are no plans for this project, but I could be wrong.  Let’s hope I’m not.)

How much time and energy will this project take up? 
If you have too much on your plate, then logistically, you may not be able to do it.  Sometimes you have to turn projects down because you are “too busy”.  Or you have to let go of another project to make room for it.  This is where time management and knowing your limits comes into play.

Is it something you’ve never done before? 
Will it stretch you creatively? Bring you out of your comfort zone? I stay passionate and interested in projects that force me to learn or be on my toes—that’s the kind of work I want to be involved with.  If it’s a project that is really everyday, then why am I doing it (unless it pays really well, see above).

There are of course, other smaller factors to consider, as well, and your priorities for taking a project will depend on your own unique goals and where you are in your life.  Either way, you should always think about how your project should add value to your life (ie whether its worth it or not).

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