I struggle. Every creative person I have ever met struggles but that fact always escapes me when I am feeling particularly in touch with the idea that I haven’t amounted to enough, that I haven’t worked hard enough or smart enough or taken enough risks. I chose this life even when I failed to choose anything at all.
Failure isn’t the thing that scares me most. If you’ve ever played sports you know that losing is frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking, though you get over it, but the act of competing – putting it all out there, regardless of what side of victory you end up on, is where you find out who you really are. There is a price to pay for anything you really want. There is a price to pay to be who you want to be. The cost is different for everyone but you must pay it. If I’m going to be honest, I haven’t been willing enough to pay the price. Have you?
There are times I paid it for a while and the progress was measurable, though not nearly fast enough because I am impatient and I want it to come easy. Things have always come easy to me so why shouldn’t the life I dream of come as well? That’s life’s little equalizer – you must earn it. Here’s a tip for you; if you aren’t where you want to be then you haven’t earned it, not yet anyway.
But it isn’t as simple as working hard enough or smart enough, it’s more ethereal than just rolling up your sleeves and getting busy. I believe it’s a decision, yes a decision. It is something that rests in the deepest part of your soul that you have always known is there and rather than let it thrive, live and grow, you keep tabs on it, feed it once in a while and tell it that “someday, you’ll make it”. The decision is one of letting go and following the dream by taking action all of the time. It’s the equivalent of jumping into the deep end whether you know how to swim or not. Do it now, figure it out later. Don’t hesitate. Waiting is an act of rebellion against yourself and denying your own dream the life it deserves.
The good news is you aren’t alone. There are millions of us out there waiting, hoping, starting, stopping and starting again. We’re figuring it out. We’re feeding our soul. We’re readying ourselves for launch. And when we grow tired of all the getting ready and holding back and being frustrated and heartbroken that we have yet to become who we are meant to be, we’ll either give up or we’ll make that decision.
Here’s the unspoken promise I make to all the creatives in my life; I’ll hold your hand, if you hold mine. I’ll look you in the eye and always tell you the truth. I hope you will do the same for me. I’ll remind you who you really are in those times you forget and I will tell you to “man up” when you are wallowing in self-pity. I expect to hear those tender reassurances and no-nonsense reminders come my way as well. I’ll expect a lot from you but not more than you would expect from yourself. I’ll hold you accountable. Hold me to the same standard. I’ll never lose faith in you, ever, because it’s easier to believe in you than it is to believe in myself, please give that gift to me as well so that we may prop each other up through the inevitable storms we’ll face.
I can’t guarantee you’ll win an Oscar, be on the New York Times Bestsellers List, sell out the Hollywood Bowl or be at the top of the pop charts. But I can promise that I’ll encourage you to make that movie, pen the novel or write a song and when you do we’ll celebrate because the world needs more of that kind of thing.
It’s selfish to hold back your creative ambitions and to not put the time and energy in to polish your skills and master your craft. The world needs you, it needs me, to step up and give ourselves to it because somewhere there is someone who will be moved by what you’ve done enough to do it themselves. Art is inspiration. It really can change the world. So be messy. Be bad. Be brave and be tenacious in your pursuit of those inspired moments of creativity where you feel what athletes call “being in the zone”. If you chase anything, chase that and find as many people chasing the same thing as you can to run with, play with, cry with, laugh with and celebrate with.
If you’ve read this far, you probably have figured out that this is as much a letter to myself as it is to you. I’ve always felt more inspired by looking outward than looking only inward. The reminders that I am not alone are all over, when I look up and look around. Every single week for five years I have led a group of writers, actors, producers and creatives in a screenwriting workshop and they always inspire me. Community is important. I’m not alone and neither are you.
We’re in this together and inside each of us lies greatness. Let’s jump into the deep end and figure it out.
If you enjoyed this post then read Screenwriting for actors – “Stop asking for permission”