Risking it all

Risk

A friend of mine recently posted the above sign on her Facebook page, and I had no choice but to share it with my Facebook community (and now you). Although I find the sentiment a little negatively toned as worded, I completely agree with it.

As many of you know, I jumped off a cliff about 18 months ago, completely turning my life upside down in pursuit of the dream of being a screenwriter. To do that, I have made a large number of sacrifices to the way my life was, but in the interim, I have discovered some wonderful things—about me and my friends—that I might never have learned if I hadn’t.

Last week, I had drinks with another friend, someone who had made a similar jump to mine. Like me, he has had some wonderful times during this phase of his life, but he is also struggling with doubt and the sense that the years of effort haven’t paid off as he would have liked. Doubt is a thing I understand.

At this moment, I have no doubt or at least not about my dream. It seems as real and viable as ever. Its realization is simply a matter of time in and work on my part. I revel in these moments and wish my friend could feel the same way right now.

When doubt does creep in, however, I do my best to give it context.

The doubt: Can I afford this conference? Is this screenplay any good? Have I made a mistake? Am I a fraud?

The context: What is the alternative?

I look back at my life before I made the jump and I realize that I can’t go back to that. This is not to say that it was all miserable…I had love and support; I enjoyed aspects of my jobs; I met wonderful people. But in many ways, all of those positives were for naught back then because I was miserable.

I was living my life for other people. I based my identity on my job and what I did for other people. I was only as good, as valuable, as loved as other people told me I was, and deep inside, I truly suspected they were lying. Through no fault of theirs, I couldn’t have faith in them because I didn’t have faith in me.

So, when I finally jumped off the cliff, I realized that what I was risking was a life of well masked misery and distrust. Hardly much of a risk from my perspective.

I understand that others cannot always jump as wholeheartedly as I did. They have responsibilities that I did not have.

I have no children. My wife and I were separating for other reasons (nice to say she remains my strongest and most loving advocate and supporter). My family responsibilities had all but disappeared. My jumping would leave no one in the lurch.

So, maybe you can’t jump like I did. I’m not suggesting that it is right for everyone. But to not jump at all in pursuit of a passion is folly.

Every day you maintain the lie, whatever your personal lie is, is another day you risk it all.

It will be scary. You will have doubts. But you’re not doing anyone any favours, least of all yourself, by continuing to pursue activities, attitudes or a life that is crushing you.

I hope my friend relocates the wonder in what he is doing and continues to explore his adventure. If he will let me, I am happy to help him in any way I can.

He is a very lucky man because he is surrounded by love and support from a community of people who adore him and want him to be happy. I hope he can take energy from that. I know I do.

Faith

Image

Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.

– Fred Gailey (John Payne), Miracle on 34th Street

 

We all have doubts.

Doubt that we are good enough to accomplish our goals. Doubt that our goals are even realistic or rational.

And sadly, most if not all of us have had or currently have a long line of people who are more than willing to feed those doubts with their own. Often, their superficial motive is to be supportive, to help cushion the blow of failure, to save you from certain doom. But more likely, their motive is to take comfort in the belief that your doubts make it okay for them to have doubts about their own lives.

But, if you’re lucky, you have those special few in your life who have absolutely no doubt in your future success. They’re the ones who listen to your ideas with a smile, an eager nod, and perhaps some sage constructive advice to help make your goals even more realistic.

The latter group are the people you need to heed, for they see the potential of your efforts in the absence of your fears and just as importantly, in the absence of their own.

I am not a religious man—although I have become quite spiritual—so faith has never been top of mind for me until recently. It’s not that I didn’t have faith, in hindsight, but rather that I had a very narrow definition of it. And, like my friends for me, it was easy to have faith in things external. It was faith in myself that I lacked.

More recently, however, I have realized that faith isn’t about rejecting the possibility of failure. Rather it is about accepting the possibility of failure but with the further understanding that failure does not mean your journey has ended.

Failure does not put your destination off limits. It is merely a diversion from your original path to that destination.

I know I am a good writer and story teller, but I also know I have challenges ahead in translating those skills into the money I need to make to continue writing and story telling.

Faith comes in telling myself (and believing) that through hard work on my part (e.g., networking, classes, practice) and unknown forces outside of my control and understanding, those challenges will dissipate at the appropriate time.

Like those well-intentioned naysayers, drawing a line in the sand about giving up (e.g., going back to my former career) only gives voice to my doubts. I will not allow myself to do that anymore.

I have faith that I will endure failure and that I will succeed at whatever it is I am to accomplish, no matter what street I live on.

I wish you that faith as well.

 

For an interesting piece on questions about talent and faith therein, check out this post from Plotting Bunnies: The ingredients of Writing: Talent…?

(Image is property of owner and is used without permission because I have faith they’ll get my point.)

Doubt

I have doubt.

Not in my skills, thank goodness, or the belief that with the right guidance, I can improve them steadily, but I have doubt.

I have doubt that I will find the right people to see the merits of those skills and help me to convert them into something meaningful. A video, a television program, a film, a novel, a photo exhibit. Something that I can share with all the world. Something that will touch the souls of others as the gestation and creation of the work has touched mine.

I have doubt that I can hold on to my new fantasy life and that reality, oh harsh reality, won’t poke its head into the mix and throw me back to where I was. That I will need to find resources to live, and that the need will draw me away from my art. Perhaps irreparably tearing me from it and setting me back upon the course I once journeyed of discontent and pain.

I have doubt that I won’t continue to find supporters and friends—my oh so wonderful friends—who will hold my hand on this journey. Who will provide a tether to keep me connected and yet free enough not to anchor me to the world.

I have doubt about what is around the next corner. About the shadows in the darkness. About the approaching ground in my free fall through life.

I have doubt.

But I will not let that change what I am doing. I cannot allow my doubt to prevent me from living the life I have finally discovered.

If around the corner is an oncoming train, in the shadows lay a vicious monster, and on the approaching ground shards of glass, I will not allow doubt to slow or still me.

I may not succeed in achieving my goals, but in overcoming my doubt, I will have succeeded in my journey. And for that, I will be eternally grateful and find peace.