Courage > Fearlessness

It was kind of relief to hear Elizabeth Gilbert say that courage is better than fearlessness. I feel like, on a regular basis, I am full of fear and running empty on courage. On any given day I am worried about no less than 10 separate things. There’s always something, and my brain is a master of blowing shit up, out of proportion.

In the same breath, fear has obviously helped me immensely. Fear kept me in line, even though it no doubt hindered me countless times. The perfect example of this is the screenplay that I wrote a couple years ago.

Several movies and books had put the idea in my head that if this could be a movie/book, why couldn’t my idea be? Fear shut that down pretty quickly, making it so I never even attempted to write it. Also, perfectionism fucked that up because even before I write a word, I was worried about not writing well enough; not putting my story into words properly; boring people; boring myself. How crazy is that, to not even start because of being scared of what might happen? Crazy but accurate. I held back for years, but during that time I started a little box in my compartmentalized brain labelled Screenplay. I went back and forth between it being a book or a screenplay, but in the end it came down to visuals. As much as I love words, sometimes there are none.

Sometimes the cliche is true: a picture is worth a thousand words. A million, even. (This might be another clue as to why I should have taken photography classes…)

In the end, screenplay won. So after putting it off and thinking about it and putting it off, I finally just went for it. I took a couple weeks. Editing, re-editing, writing over and over…. Finally I had this finished product. I was so excited about it. I got my friend who went to VFS to read it, and she gave me some great constructive criticism, but also told me that I needed to sympathize with my antagonist.

This halted me. Hard. Sympathize with her? Fuck. That. How was I supposed to do that when the whole basis of my screenplay was about how the antagonist destroyed the protagonist.

This halted me hard enough that I let the screenplay go for like, a year. I haven’t touched it in forever. Last month I reopened it and changed a few things. It’s a true story, I just had to crunch about 10 years of incidents into one. An appropriate movie length and a good flow. It’s on the Blacklist, even though I have more changes to make.

The fact that I even posted it to the Blacklist is amazing to me. I can’t believe I really did it, but then again, it’s not like I have to see anyone’s face while they read it. It’s not like they can see me blushing from across the wires and through the typed words.

But I have to take over this fear even more, and edit it so it’s actually really ready. I think I was so excited that i just threw it up there, imagining that something amazing would happen overnight. It was a silly thing to think, but excitement does that.

I need to “give myself permission” (as this lecture says) to create this project. I need to fix it, finish it, and present it. I want this screenplay to be something I’m legitimately proud of, and not constantly overthinking. Although, to be honest, I don’t see how I’ll even not be worried about something I write. Criticism is helpful, but cruelty can hit the brakes really hard, and that sends me reeling.

I want to pursue this because it’s something I’ve dreamed about since my college screenwriting course. I imagined myself churning out this beautiful piece, and having it be appreciated and loved by people I admire and respect. I mean, can you imagine having someone you adore/admire/look up to seeing your “baby”? Seeing your creation? It would be insane. It would make me blush a violent red and immediately feel like my stomach was going to fall out my butt. The fear. It basically governs my life, but I can finally see how that is not a negative thing.

Fear may govern, but it also saves. But now I have to separate realistic fear from unrealistic fear, and let myself go enough to do this. Give myself up to this screenplay and really put it out there for people to see.

I hesitated for so long at first because I was afraid of what my mother would say or do. Afraid because the entire screenplay is about how she’s damaged me in so many ways. I was afraid and ashamed, knowing how she’d spin this enormous guilt trip (if she ever saw it) and would make me feel like a huge piece of shit. But I’ve realized that I don’t have to be afraid of telling this truth. It’s dark and it’s terrible and it sucked, but it happened. I don’t have to worry about what she would say, because it doesn’t matter. She cut everyone out of her life, so it’s not like we see each other or even speak.

Her narcissistic personality thrived on guilt trips while I was growing up. Fear was a constant guest at the table. Not even a guest: fear was a family member. I learned how to tell fear to fuck off (in this instance) only recently. I’m going to tell my story and if she doesn’t like it; if she doesn’t want people to see who she really is, then that’s not really my problem. It’s not like I’d use real names. I don’t even have my entire family in the screenplay.

The term “family,” I use loosely. They’re a group of people with similar DNA who spent a long period of life in the same household. The only family member I’m close to is my sister. She is my family. Extended, we have a pair of amazing uncles, an incredible auntie, and the best group of cousins. They made our childhood bearable with their sporadic holiday visits, and I have always and will always look forward to our times together.

Family is something I’ve had to honour of making myself. I used to think this was a shameful thing, but time and experience has taught me that I was wrong. Choosing my own family (our own family, my sister and I) is amazing. We learned that we don’t have to make room for toxic parents, and that we are free to live our lives in a healthy way, free of negativity. And I will always protect my child from that toxicity.

One day, she’ll probably read this screenplay. I still don’t know how I’m going to explain everything to her. As she gets older she’s going to have questions. I will answer them honestly, and maybe she will one day want to meet her biological grandmother. That’s fine. If she wants that, I’ll take her. But I won’t lie to her, and I won’t let me mother hurt her. This screenplay has everything in it. Every blow and every hard hit; every time my heart and confidence were destroyed; every time a little girl was mentally beaten down, to feel like nothing.

Ugh. This is getting redundant, talking about the dark shit.

I’m not ashamed to share this story anymore. I’m just scared of not writing it well enough. I’ve always felt like I’m not as great a writer as some people have told me I am. I’m just fooling people. I’m a fraud.

I guess we’ll see.


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