On Sunday, September 15th, I was 4 pages away from completing my second feature-length screenplay; a psychological thriller called Two Smart. It was hard work, and many times I chastised myself for making things more difficult than they had to be.
You see, I wondered if I could write 90 pages of a screenplay, set in one location, with just three characters. I don’t want to give away anything just yet, but when I say one location, I mean ONE location. I challenged myself even further; for example, not simply a house – but one room in a house. So I set about my task to make a story interesting enough, balancing the right about of dialogue and action to maintain an audience’s attention for an hour and a half.
That Sunday I knew I was going to finish the script. I mean, I KNEW exactly how the movie was supposed to end. I had a scene by scene outline! I woke up at 6am as usual, smiling and messaging close friends that I was about to finish the script. I went on Facebook, read some funny statuses, went on gchat and before I knew it, it was 9am. I still had the whole day to write those final four pages, right? I spent the entire day running errands, responding to emails, watching videos online…until I realised that the sun had disappeared, and the CBC Evening News had just finished.
Ok Shakirah, time to write these four pages, and I opened the Final Draft Document.
But I became paralysed. I became cold all over, and my eyes looked wildly about the room to find any task to do but the one before me. What was happening?
This is where the post gets a little crazy, but all artists are crazy so I know you can empathize. I had a conversation with myself.
“But, but, this is ridiculous. What are you afraid of?”
I had a moment of self-realisation. I was afraid of the possibilities.
You see, me writing these last four pages meant that Two Smart would no longer be my own. After I wrote those four pages, it would be time to send it out into public; like a child’s first day of school. I would finally know the answers to questions I had been pondering for months. “Is this scene too much like a soap-opera? Is this believable? Is this moment too boring?”
And you know what? Part of me didn’t want those answers. I wanted to keep it safe on my laptop, safe from criticism and questions. And so I sat there frozen at my laptop, wanting to finish the race but not wanting to hear the results.
But then I asked myself (yes, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a self-talker), “Are you afraid people are going to love it? Or hate it?”
I realised that both results scared me. Fear of failure and Fear of success.
Fear of success???
Can you imagine that I was petrified that people were going to love Two Smart? That the crazy ass risk was going to pay off? Man I stupsed sooo hard and said, “You yuh idiot. You better finish this blasted thing today!”
And so I did.
I wrote those last four pages.
It took me 16 hours to complete that 2 hour job, because I was scared.
After finishing the script I did not celebrate. I did not feel elation or relief. Instead I did some introspection, and wondered how quickly I would have finished, had I been able to recognise this procrastination as fear of success and learnt to overcome it.
I wondered how many projects I hadn’t completed, how many opportunities I let slip by me, because I thought I would be successful.
I realised I had felt that fear a few times recently -once during a rather creepy episode of the Walking Dead but that’s another story. I felt it on opening night of PAYDAY movie, when I stalked the reaction of the audience, wondering if they would enjoy it. I felt it when I made the decision to finally publish the book of short stories. I felt it when I was told I was selected to pitch a movie to a public audience at a film festival.
These are all good things, right?
So paralyzing-can’t-breathe-can’t-think emotion = good things are about to happen?
I’ll take it.
I’ve understood that when I feel this emotion, it means that something special is about to happen.
So when I feel that blinding fear, I should take a moment to rejoice because it means major change is about to occur.
That blinding fear is like my best friend, cheering me on all the way to the finishing line.
So meet my best friend, fear.
I hope she stays with me for a long time.