A friend’s twin sons have arrived in New York aiming for careers in the theatre, or maybe television, movies. They sing; they dance; they act, and they’ve paid their dues, performing in amateur theatre in Seattle for years, taking their singing and dancing classes seriously, majoring in Theatre in college. Since they arrived, they’ve been waiters in a sushi restaurant, had parts in an off-Broadway play, a Verizon commercial, and a television show, also waited on table and one of them had his body cast in plaster for an artist. The resulting statue, I am told, stands in front of a restaurant somewhere in the city.
I don’t talk about them much with my friends, because I have to endure elaborate stories, based on first-hand information (?), that it’s practically unheard of to make it in show business these days, or “They’re lucky they’re boys. It’s impossible for a girl” or “An article in the Huffington Post said that 90% of actors are unemployed.” Prospective actors are buried under an avalanche of negativity, but I wonder how many restaurateurs are unemployed, and History professors, and architects. The magnificent clarinetist, Charles Neidich, was studying archaeology and his mother said, “Why don’t you study something where you have a prayer of finding a job.” Like playing the clarinet?
And writers. When I was writing my book, Daring to Date Again, people patted me on the head and said, “Yes, dear. Isn’t that sweet. But you know that it’s almost impossible to get published. Especially these days.”
There is only one sure way not to get published, and that is not to try.
Then I went to Zimbabwe and spent a month with Guy, a white businessman who had defied every prediction and started a business there. I watched as he chugged ahead, moving two steps forward every day, fixing what needed fixing, and then coming back to his mission. After I left, Zimbabwe’s systems all tanked. The water purification systems came close to failing, electricity was sporadic. People lined up to buy food, hoarded fuel. The government razed the homes and businesses of regular Zimbabweans to force people back to their villages, including some of Guy’s employees. A sack of bills bought a loaf of bread and what you bought in the morning cost two or three times that much by the afternoon. But Guy was successful because he kept moving forward. My challenges were minor by comparison.
A few weeks into my stay, I decided to chuck the negativity. If Guy could start a successful business in Zimbabwe, then I could get published in America. And I did.
In my experience, people don’t react immediately with the prediction of catastrophe when people open other kinds of new businesses, though most businesses fail. Give these boys a chance, folks. In your minds, predict success. There are lots of working actors in this world, few stars, but many people make their living in show business. Many people make their living as writers, and artists, and even dancers. Give them the room to succeed.