A few months ago I got an email from a guy named, Michael Neale. It started with some kind remarks and then quickly turned into a pitch. I get a few of these a month. Most don’t interest me. This isn’t to say they aren’t great ideas, it’s just that they aren’t a “fit.”
Michael’s project, however, was quite interesting.
He had written a novel and a rough script for a live version of the story, complete with original music, and needed help crafting the piece. The Wife and I jumped on board and started our work with him.
Last week I found myself in West Palm Beach, Florida taking Michael through the piece. Michael isn’t an actor, he’s a performer, so I was there to help direct his actions and intentions onstage. It was a ball.
We spent the better part of 12 hours together battling through technical difficulties, memorizing lines, emotions, and blocking. As the day wore on, the stress of the impending event loomed over Michael. He had invited close to 2,000 people to come and watch him tell a story that he had written. It was a big-boy version of what many of us awkwardly artistic kids did whenever we had family over for the holidays. Remember those little shows you’d put on? You’d rehearse your lines and then when the time was just right, you’d invite the aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, and grandparents down to the basement to see what you’d been working on all night.
As I watched Michael onstage that afternoon, powering through the exhaustion and anxiety, it became clear to me why we stop inviting our families into the basement to see the things we’ve made, and why most of us stop making things at all:
The fear is overwhelming and it’s precisely why such little good work gets made, in my opinion.
My best friend just quit his job and can’t sleep. Another good friend moved to a completely new city for love and is terribly depressed. My new project is causing more than its fair share of “what-have-I-gotten-myself-into-this-time?” anxiety.
My point is…jumping ain’t easy.
We know if we quit our jobs, we might not sleep for three months. We know that if we follow our hearts, it might possibly lead to a certain kind of melancholy. We know that if we try and fulfill our visions, we may be plagued with dark clouds questioning our artistry and skill.
Why does this happen?
When we jump into risky endeavors we create space. The space is created, in part, because of the things that needed to be let go of to jump in the first place. This void is ripe for sadness, anxiety, fear, depression, death, and grief.
Sounds terrible doesn’t it?
And yet this is the space I most want to live in and it’s also the space I want you to live as well.
The beauty about this scary space is that if you stay there long enough new life is born.
My friend will find a fulfilling job, I’m sure of it. My other friend will discover what he is to become. I know that my project will teach me things I didn’t know I could do. Michael Neale may very well make a million dollars telling a beautiful story.
And you…you can and will as well, but only if you decide to stare that pesky fear in the face, invite the family back into the basement, and say (quite literally, in fact), “To hell with you! I’m making scary things today!”