Naked & Afraid

12 04 2016

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I should only look so good in my state of nakedness and fear.

There is nothing more vulnerable than putting “it” out there in the world. And by “it”, I am talking about that thing that you have been keeping to yourself and have finally given up on trying to hide from the universe for whatever reason.

Maybe you can’t live with yourself refraining from telling that person how you really feel. Maybe it’s been 3 years of working on the same damn manuscript and you can’t bear to look at it one single, solitary second longer. Perhaps you’ve practiced that solo over and over again, or that pitch you have wanted to try out but were afraid would fail miserably in front of the coach or the audience.

For whatever reason, you have decided the price of living in fear is far worse than the price of any potential embarrassment and you have put “It” out there.

This is what I refer to as my “naked and afraid” moment, or moments. It starts when you’re in junior high school and your chubby, pimply and less-than-macho self cannot resist from asking out that girl to the dance even though every guy likes her. Sure, the advanced math part of you knows the odds but damn those hormones. It just grows and gets worse and worse from there.

For us creative, angst-ridden types, it can be pure torture. Though, as I write and talk to more people, I am convinced that it is in all of us. Many of us are just better at maintaining clearer lines between our inner and outer voices.

I have given presentations on such exciting topics as market share growth and competitive market analyses in front of people who could single handedly decide my career trajectory and have felt way less vulnerability than sending a 100 page script I wrote to a few friends “in the biz” to get their feedback.

Why? Simple. It matters to me. It matters a lot; more than it should. I don’t envy those poor souls who received it and consider their friendship with me too good to actually provide me with the truth, though that is what I need the most.

Here is what I say to them and to you, should you ever be on the receiving end of one of those “can you let me know what you think” requests – be honest. Apologize in advance for the criticism if you have to. Be kind but be honest. As much as it may kill us (slowly) to realize that our biggest fears may be true – that we suck, it’s a bad script, she’s not into you, etc. etc. etc. – it’s only going to be worst later on.

I finished my first full-length screenplay in April of 2015. I sat on it until early this year to even start to make any revisions. After the 5th or 6th time, I just had to let it go into the universe. It was doing no good, just sitting there on my computer any longer. I know it’s not perfect. Hell, it may not even be good. Even worst, it might be the hokiest, cliché, boring piece of shit that anyone has ever read. I’m not totally sure yet because I haven’t received any feedback from those I sent it to (hint, hint).

In seriousness though, I want them and you future reviewers out there to know that it’s ok. You can start of your feedback email with something like “I commend you on working toward your dream” or “I am so happy your day job seems to be working out for you.” We get it. In the meantime, some constructive feedback might actually turn that stinker into something of real value one day. You know the story – piece of crap athlete turns it around after reading coach makes link between learning style and his pitching. Something like that anyway.

Here’s some things for you hesitant “friend/reviewers” to keep in mind:

  1. We had to do it. We had to write, sing, draw, ask her out, and try to build that deck on our own. We just couldn’t NOT do it. It wasn’t in our blood.
  2. We know that we are all amateurs in this game and yes, we really, really, really want to do something great with “it” but chances are slim and we aren’t go to die from rejection or the truth. (I don’t think.)
  3. We feel bad for asking you. We spent hours – ok, months, with a draft email in our Draft Email box waiting to go out to you asking for this one favor. I made a bid on an entire house that I am not 100% sure I am eligible to buy in a ridiculously less amount of time than it took me to craft that email, by the way.
  4. We understand you are not an expert. We get that these are opinions. But for whatever reason, we need to hear what you think. In my case, I need to hear from people who write, who may have a female point of view (for the protagonist in this one particular script) or have a cultural knowledge that is woven through my script. Or maybe, I just need a friend to read it and say “wow – that was not what I expected.” I am not sure.
  5. If reviewing something is a burden or you just flat don’t want to, just be a mensch and say so. It’s totally fine. I Facebook messaged a comedian I know (peripherally) whose writing I admire. This dude has been on Comedy Central, Inside Amy Schumer etc. etc. – you get the picture. I was on a few shows with him (as I reminded him in my message) and am sure he has no clue who I am. I asked him if he would consider reading my script, fully expecting that he wouldn’t want to or be able to. Sure enough, I was right. But he messaged me back the same day, told me he was super busy and was totally cool about the whole thing. I hated asking him. Hated with a capital “H”. I did it though because how the hell does anyone accomplish anything without the help of others (besides Donald Trump, that is)? I am much more grateful that this guy just said no politely than tried to pacify me. That would only lead to him having to blow me off in the future or refer to me as “some dude who I told I’d review his thing” which is never good.

So, here is my lesson for anyone who is naked and afraid. Go with it. We are all naked and afraid. That Rico Suave looking dude with the French cut fit shirt, George Hamilton smile, perfect hair and huge 401K account? Yup. He’s way naked and afraid. Of what you might ask? Exactly! That’s how naked and afraid he really is. He’s still wearing his costume.

Go out there and show your cajones (figuratively, please) and your vulnerability (that one you can try literally) and it will feel nauseating, anxiety provoking and even a little liberating.

Until next time,

Marc





Great Expectations (or living life on the side)

3 03 2015

Ill-Have-What-Shes-Having

“I’ll have what she’s having.”

For those of you hoping for a lively review of the Dickens classic or an examination of cinematic treatments of the female sexual response (see graphic above) – my apologies. Yes, I may have lured you in with that nice graphic above but this is about me and my “great expectations”. However, not unlike the protagonist, Pip, in the literary classic, who wanted something so opposite of his orphaned beginnings – to be a “gentleman” – I, too, had aspirations greater than that of my humble beginnings. (Or I hope that that sounds interesting enough to read on, anyway.)

I spent most of my life living ‘on the side’. Much like the famous character of Sally played by Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”, ‘on the side’ was a very big thing in my family. This wasn’t a food thing either. It was a life thing.

It seems like almost anything and everything I was interested in really didn’t fit into the norm growing up and due to lack of money, lack of comfort, or both, I was often relegated to pursue things ‘on the side’. What I have realized since, however, is that I never stopped categorizing things between the main course and the side dish. As an adult, I neutralized any excitement to pursue things ‘on the side’ due to the mismatch with my great expectations.

If you’ve ever been passionate about something, you may recognize how difficult it is to scale back and have that thing take 2nd or 3rd fiddle to anything else – in other words, work on your passion ‘on the side’.

The older I grew, the more responsibilities I encountered that not only mandated that anything that I was personally excited about – music, comedy, writing – would have to be ‘on the side’, but that the ‘side’ kept getting farther and farther away.

As some of you may have read from previous blogs, I have been learning a lot about the complex web that impacts a person’s happiness. It turns out that expectations have a lot to do with it. If our expectations are too great, it is almost impossible to achieve them and even if that does occur, the process and self-talk is so tortuous that it makes the entire thing worthless. What is the point doing the thing you love if you don’t enjoy it anymore?

It has occurred to me that I let my great (and completely unrealistic) expectation of being the best I can be in anything I pursue get in the way of me actually just doing it. Having “great expectations” of yourself is a wonderfully cowardly way of simply masking fear. “I would love to try (fill in the blank) but I won’t be very good at it and don’t have the time…etc.”

My kids are older now and that definitely has freed up some time for me to pursue things that I hadn’t pursued in well over 10 years. But, more than that, as I start to just type that first word or play that first note or throw that first punch, I am learning that my ‘on the side’ doesn’t have to be that small. Maybe one day, it will even be the main course and then as the infamous scene in “When Harry Met Sally” notoriously proclaimed, you might even have what I’m having!

Until next time,
Marc








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