It’s been almost 30 years since I figured out — much to my surprise — that what I really wanted more than anything else vocationally was to be an artist. And I’ve spent most of the years since then explaining to myself over and over why this isn’t possible.
After enough reasonable explanation, I start getting numb to what I want. I forget what it feels like. I turn my attention elsewhere and tell myself that realistic people do other things. Maybe I can make filmmaking a hobby if I do really well for awhile at something I hate.
Doesn’t that make sense? I can make a few hundred thousand dollars a year as a real estate broker. How about that? Isn’t that more realistic? Sure. Why not. I’ll do that. It all makes so much sense. And it sounds so responsible.
And so I start burying what I know — every now and then, at least — that I want. Until somebody comes along and pokes a stick at something I try hard not to look at.
That’s what happened today.
I got a message from a friend early this morning asking whether I was working on any films right now. I always have at least half a dozen projects at various stages of development and one of them fit the sort of project he was curious about.
I explained the idea to him. It’s one of my favorite ideas and it’s been kicking around at various stages of script development for about 10 years. It would be funny and would also be interesting social commentary. It should be easy to understand for audiences and thus accessible to a wide enough range of people to give it a shot at being popular. Best of all, it seems to be within my capabilities as a filmmaker.
But instead of just being interested in the idea, my friend asked if I had ever considered a particular method of raising money to make a series of films. He had an idea. It was something I’d never thought about. It might work. It might be crazy. I have no idea. But my friend suggested that it might be realistic to raise about $50 million with this idea.
What I felt next is the interesting part of the story.
For a decade, I’ve wanted to make this film and others. But I’ve slowly convinced myself that it’s not that big a deal. I’ve slowly convinced myself that I must not want it very much. In fact, I want it so little that it would be better to be “realistic” and work in real estate. Or something like that.
But when my friend threw the crazy idea of $50 million at me, everything changed. I felt passion for making some movies. It sounded crazy to spend another day doing anything else. If I had $50 million — or $10 million or even a few hundred thousand dollars — I’d make a movie and then try to find the money to make another. And another. And another.
I have things I want to say. I have funny ideas that I want to see on the screen. I have movies that I would like to make for specific people and for myself. If I had the money, I would joyfully work hard to make the best art I could possibly make — and it wouldn’t be work as much as it would be the passion of sharing the ideas and emotions and humor that I love with others.
When my friend mentioned this crazy possibility, I wanted it badly. Not because I wanted the money. (Although the money would be nice, too.) I wanted it because making these films would be an expression of myself, not drudgery that I was doing to hope to be worthy of a future family who needed my financial support.
I have no idea whether what my friend mentioned today is possible or not. That’s not even the point here. The point is that when I thought filmmaking was possible, I knew I wanted it. And I knew I wanted to run away from doing anything else.
What about you?
What do you want that you are trying to convince yourself that you don’t want? What is it that you believe you can’t have? What need or desire are you repressing because you think it can’t happen?
Try this. For the next 60 seconds, just close your eyes and imagine what your life would be like if you really could have whatever it is you want. What does it look like? What does it sound like? What physical sensations come with it? Imagine that it’s real. Feel it vividly.
Now how does that make you feel?
If you allowed yourself to imagine the feelings honestly, you now know whether it’s worth setting your fears aside. In that moment of imagining, what did your heart tell you? Do you still want it? Or is your life just fine without it?
If your heart is fine without you having this thing, then move on. Quit looking back. If it doesn’t matter that much to you, why waste your time and energy?
But if your heart knew in your moment of imagination that you really do want it, then stop lying to yourself. If it’s something about which you have a choice, make the choice to give yourself the future you want and need.
I need someone to remind me of this every day, because most days I’m scared and my Lizard Brain is trying to talk me into being “realistic.” (I hate that word.)
My Lizard Brain thinks it’s a great idea to be a real estate broker. My Heart knows there’s no direction other than making films. But my Lizard Brain and my Heart are still fighting it out.
I hope my Heart can win, whether I can raise $50 million or not.