I’m not afraid to admit I’ve been scared shitless. Sometimes it’s good to admit to the fear. I don’t think we do that enough. We’re all a little scared. We hide it well. We hide it behind hope and possibilities and actions. We hide it behind positive thoughts and mantras and shinings-on and crossed fingers.
We’ve been so close or we’ve never been close or we’ve had small successes or giant let-downs. We hide it all. We smile. We keep going. We ‘perform’. On and off stage, we perform.
The danger of not being open with others about your fears is that it festers. We’re always quick to share our wins, but when it comes to our losses, we’re alone.
Some time back, when I had been years long into a film career, I was becoming jaded and was burning out. I ran into an old friend of mine that I’d shot a project with years back and we stood for a minute catching up. I asked him what he was doing, how I was doing. And you know, I was shocked to hear an honest answer for once.
“You know, this and that, but it’s fucking tough.”
Good God but how that made me feel. I looked at him square and I said, “Yeah, I know what you mean.” And then I said, “Isn’t it nice to just say how it is instead of bullshitting about what’s really happening.” He agreed.
Where I was then was in the heart of independent film. Everything was always ‘happening’. Things were always ‘popping’. You were always ‘working on this’ or ‘in development on that’. Didn’t matter that in reality you didn’t have two clapsticks to rub together, we’re talking your third 14-hour a day, $50 day rate production job. But everything was just ‘awesome’. It was the land of public relations. Plastic smiles and lies.
The more I talked to artists about this notion of sharing in the struggle of the artist, of embracing it, the more I found people’s eyes lighting up. They’d talk about this and that and the other thing they’d been through in their artistic careers. We would connect. We’d commiserate. We would always end off energized. Yeah, this is hard but, God, what a life! What amazing people we are to love this thing and to keep doing it. What an adventure! What a ride!
This was the spark for the Underground. We needed an outlet to share it all.
The problem with holding it in is that it not only eats you up inside, it sets a standard. We hide it so well everyone thinks they are the only one feeling this. We are all enrolled in the same school of hard knocks, all taking the same test and all copying each other’s answers. But the guy you think is so smart? He may be failing the class. So you cheating off him will throw you the same result. The blind lead the blind.
The point is, this is what I learned: It’s okay to be afraid to fail. We have all been there at one point or another. You have to let it out once in a while. You are not alone. So every now and then acknowledge it. Admit that it’s there. Let it out. And let it go. If you don’t it may fester. And festered fear can cause paralysis. It’s a known fact.
A little fear is good. Let it be the fire to fuel you to success. You are afraid of not succeeding. You are afraid of living in the same condition for the rest of your life. You are afraid of contentment, complacency. The life-long desk jockey has none of those fears. So embrace the fear. Share it with your fellow artists and embrace the risk you take, embrace the courage you have to live outside your comfort zone.
As Nelson Mandela said: Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
Live always with fear at your heels, acknowledge and embrace it and move forward anyway. You will build a life worth living and a life without regret.
Stay hungry and stay Well-Fed.
The Well-Fed Artist – featured in the 9 o’clock hour on Radio Soapbox every Monday night. Listen live or listen to the archives.
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