Why we don’t do what we dream

A snail crosses the void between two stones, body half adhering to one stone and then the other.

Anyone who’s known me long enough will tell you I’ve had a longing to write stories for some time, especially screenplays these last few years. It’s something I’ve always come back to even if life has taken me way off course.

So why haven’t I done it?

Self-doubt, confusion about how to approach it, prioritising work and salary-making jobs, house stuff, raising humans…

Right now isn’t ideal either, but no other time is guaranteed, is it? In this moment I’m lucky enough to be alive, healthy and willing so it’s the best opportunity I have.

It’s got me thinking about the obstacles that have been stuck in my path all these years.

After all, if they’ve been cluttering up my highway, chances are they might be blocking others too. It’s probably worth a few blog posts, but as luck would have it, Marie Forleo and best-selling author Cheryl Strayed have it covered in this sweet video about becoming a writer (although it could be applicable to any art).

Here’s a short version:

Be gentle with yourself

Cheryl says:

“Only when I’m gentle with myself can I actually really let go and do the work.”

*huffs* We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, don’t we? And our inner critic loves to interject with the classic “You’re not good enough” or the paranoid “They know you’re a fraud” (that’s not just me right??) along the way. So bloody helpful.

Can we work from a position of shame?

Will being hard on ourselves bring about our best work?

No and NO.

Yet, society seems to associate gentleness and ease with not making enough effort. While striving and working ourselves like dogs, never satisfied with our efforts, is the “respectable” way.

Internal bullying can’t be part of the open-hearted and free-minded creative process. For ideas to flow we need to relax, preferably even enjoy it.

And so gentleness is key.

Don’t try to control everything

In the video, Cheryl talks about the ‘literary lasagne’. This means that you start writing on the surface (with the nice cheese topping) thinking you know what the story is about. However, if you’re open to it and delve in further, new layers are revealed, possibly those you can’t even imagine. The lasagne analogy doesn’t quite hold up because who doesn’t know what’s in a blinkin’ lasagne? But the point is if you try to control everything you’ll never quite reach the potential of your idea.

A nicely browned lasagne cheese topping in a country style cream bowl.
I wouldn’t mind delving into those layers.

If you’ve been following the blog so far you’ll know I’m reading Save the Cat for advice and structure for my screenwriting. It seems necessary (and expected) to follow some kind of format to work in film and TV. It also provides guidance and a reasonable place to start.

Yet…

I can’t deny that much of the joy of writing comes from being enthralled by an idea and just seeing where the journey takes me.

One of my friends is living a truly creative life. In fact, she’s one of the very few who’s uncompromisingly followed her dreams, giving up a well-paying job (amongst other things) to hone her wondrous craft as a musician. She’s also a great writer. Last week, we talked about the importance of simply letting the ideas come without a censor.

Anyone who writes knows that sometimes it feels like you’re being written through – ideas grow and spread in ways you can’t anticipate – and it’s a thrilling ride. For some, that comes from a divine source, for others, it’s the wondrous creativity of the brain. I just enjoy it.

Would that happen if you were trying to control every element? Doubtful.

It’s worth remembering if you get wrapped up in too stringent a plan. Remember, you can always edit later.

Watch out for ambition paralysis

Whether it’s the pressure of your own grand dreams (writing for TV in my case), or the desperate need to escape your current reality, pressure can stop you in your tracks. Enter procrastination and self-doubt. Again.

A wooden puppet is bowed down, buried under pebbles.
The pressure’s getting too much for this fella.

Cheryl says:

“I can’t sit here and make greatness. What I can sit here and do is write one page and then another and then another. ”

She goes on to say that it isn’t really any of our business what happens afterwards, nothing may happen and we must accept that. By surrendering our big dreams and letting go of the pressure to be great we can just focus on doing the work. And that gives us the best chance to make it great.

Back in 2015, I was fortunate to work with the fabulous Rebecca Merrifield of We Were Curious. I’d made this writing dream into such a colossal thing that I’d stopped writing altogether. So, we worked on making things simple and small again, focusing on what I actually could do which was nurturing my craft, learning about writing, actual writing, like, real words on a page, and looking after myself as a creative person.

I had to stop doing two things: worrying about how my writing would be received and, for the love of all that is holy, making it so damn worthy.

It was a challenge. I enjoy writing on my own but I don’t write in a vacuum. I want my words to be shared and to resonate with whoever needs them. However, after some great work with that talented gal, I managed to let it go Elsa style – and, along with scribbling out some fan fiction (I’ll tell you later), I actually started writing a screenplay.

Each of these themes, and others such as the lack of an apt role model, not having any money and encountering critical parties could each have their own blog posts (and these will be explored in a later post). But let’s leave it there for now.

If you’ve struggled with any of these, or other blocks, on the road to your dream – you’re not alone, in fact, it seems you’re quite normal. And if you have any thoughts on this post please do share them in the comments below, or message me.

Here’s to busting through!

E x

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