Taking yourself seriously as a writer is a rite of passage. You go from uncertainty to asserting yourself. It’s a new attitude that manifests in your actions. Instead of feeling uncomfortable when people ask what you do, you confidently say that you are a writer. Instead of putting off working on your script, you honor your writing routine. Instead of hesitating about having people read your material, you look forward to constructive feedback.
When a writer doesn’t take themselves seriously, they have little follow through with their ideas or plans. Maybe you’re afraid of completing something that is horrific, so you don’t work on it. Or maybe you’ve completed something and don’t want to risk anyone seeing it… and telling you it’s horrific. Maybe you don’t want to network with people who could very well be horrific. Rejection and criticism are enough to make anyone stall and put their work on the side burner.
Compare the ideas of “well it didn’t happen because I didn’t try” versus “I tried, and I failed.” “I didn’t try” is safe. You have nonexistent control over why it didn’t work out without ever having to see if it would have. Trying and failing is new territory. You’re stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something that could very well not work. We have a lot of negative associations with failure.
Failure isn’t an ending. It’s usually the middle. Failing forward is a term I hear often in regards to entrepreneurship; it means that you look at failure as a means to guide and inform yourself moving forward. Failure is an opportunity to grow and learn something. So while I might sound as trite and vague as possible, I mean to say that you should not worry about being a failed writer. You will fail. Accept it. The entertainment industry is a business of rejection. Keep trying.
I know it’s not that easy. I, for one, have all sorts of hang-ups associated with being a failure. It can be immobilizing, but it can also be the opposite. After I quit a job where I was a miserable person and crashed into a world of so-what-now, I tried everything known to man to stay afloat – copywriting, editing, script reading, script editing – all while trying to be a screenwriter. Someone had the nerve to say that they were proud of me. I completely scoffed it off – why would anyone be proud of me? I hadn’t succeeded at anything yet. I was trying 101 things and pushing progress but nothing fell into place. I failed at a lot of things and often. And they told me something I didn’t know: you aren’t proud of people for succeeding, though it’s great when they do, you’re proud of them for trying.
Most people give up before they try. Their struggles do not come from risk, they come from denying the urge to do what they love. Those people do not strive for their dreams. You are not that person.
You don’t have to give up the urge to control your fate. As creative people, it actually helps to have a business side – like a split personality that’s going to take care of your long term goals and strategy while you ruminate in a glass case of emotion. When you make calculated risks to take steps towards achieving your goals, they are still risks but smart ones. Taking yourself seriously is a mindset that will drive you to make clear, actionable steps. There’s no longer a need to dawdle, you know what you want. Take it.