Snake in a Box

So, I was on one of my 200 free mini-coaching calls that I’ve pledged to do throughout August when the awesome actor on the other end of the line said something that just blew me away. (Don’t worry; I told her this was gonna be today’s column. It was just too delicious an analogy not to share.)

She describes her career as a “snake in a box,” explaining, “I’ll throw a mouse in there every now and then, but I’ll never fully take the lid off. It’s too scary.”


That visual is spectacular. And I get it. I work with so many actors who will do a little postcarding, hit a networking event here or there, attend a workshop, occasionally update their website, and get new headshots every few years… and then wonder why they aren’t at the next tier.

It’s possible that they too treat their career like a snake in a box. It’s a scary critter. It’s unpredictable. It’s hungry and it might just bite *anything* that comes near it… so it had better not be you. You know it needs nourishment, so you do throw food its way, now and then, but you never fully OPEN the box, let the snake out, examine its deeper needs, and make it your ally.

You figure, “I’m taking craft classes. I’m self-producing. I’m connecting with buyers on social media. I’m reading all the articles about the business. I’m even meeting with accountability buddies! I’m IN this!”

But are you? Are you really?

If you’re consistently getting put on avail but not booking, have you asked your rep to get feedback from casting to find out if the reason “they went another way” is something within your control? If a room that has always been warm to you has suddenly gone cold, have you reached out to update the casting team about what you’ve been doing since they last had you in for a read? If you’re being told in craft class that you need to push deeper with your dramatic scenes, have you taken your coach out to coffee to find out more than what’s being said in class about why it is you may be blocked?

“I’m afraid of the answer, so I won’t ask the question,” my brilliant mini-coaching client said, when I asked her a feet-to-the-fire question during our session.

What are you avoiding? What hard truths about your look, your acting ability, your marketing materials, your aversion to research, your impatience, your fear of being too old, your fear of failure, your fear of success… are you keeping stuffed in a box, because the alternative seems so scary?

Notice I said the alternative *seems* so scary. It’s often not.

I’ll never forget the first snake I held. Her name was Cleo and she was a baby boa. I was a freshman in college and I was wearing about a dozen woven friendship bracelets, into which Cleo entwined her little tail. My dorm neighbor Rebecca freaked out a bit and was really nervous about this whole experiment. I was intrigued. “How do you move, you strange critter I’ve never encountered up close before? Ooh, I can feel every BIT of you as you wind your way around my arm and up toward my spiral-permed hair. You are COOL, lady!”

Now, had the snake been a bee, I couldn’t even write this memory. I have irrational, crazy, full-on-panic-level fear of bees. Even the kind that don’t sting.

Of course, if you have a similar fear of snakes, well, you probably stopped reading as soon as you saw the title of this week’s column. 🙂 But if you’re not someone with a full-on phobia (and, I *know* you don’t have a clinically-diagnosed phobia about the realities of your career), let’s really examine what’s in that box.

What are you afraid of? What’s not working but you’re not yet ready to examine it and then make the change that could conquer it all? It’s easy to complain that your agent never gets you out. It’s tough to imagine what life would be like with your BEST possible agent… and still not getting out. Then, whom could you blame? Woof! That’s why keeping the snake in the box is often what creatives choose.

Let’s not do that anymore. Pull that sweet baby out and let it wriggle around a bit. Make friends with the things that scare you about your career so you can turn those things into allies for how you can get to the next tier.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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