Anyone who vividly remembers “Pretty Woman” knows that the line referenced above was originally: “Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams.” And I did. I came to Hollywood, land of dreams, hoping to fulfill my own. But, when I finally overcame my fear of losing my medical benefits and embarking on a new adventure, my new life birthed so many new struggles. LA really can be the place where your dreams come true. But, what if they don’t? What if I’m one of the countless, bright-eyed souls who had big dreams and big hopes… And that was it. What if my dreams never become more than those blissful images and moments I replay over and over in my head?
My head. This is where the madness resides. A perfect storm of voices building me up and then tearing me down. Tearing me down and then building me up again:
"Am I too old... Is it too late?"
"No, everything you've been through and everything you've struggled with has gotten you to this point and this is exactly where you need to be."
"But, why couldn't it happen sooner? Why didn't it happen sooner? Everyone seems so young and it seems like things come so easily for them. It seems like so many people are achieving success at such a young age. Why didn't I have the confidence and sense of self when I was younger to start this process sooner?"
"Because you didn't... Fuck. Keep it moving."
"But, am I good enough?"
Am I good enough? Do I have any talent? What if I'm not good enough? I always get to a point in every single script I've written where I stop and ask myself why I'm writing this and why it's such a piece of crap. I remember recently watching "Moonlight" and being so incredibly moved by its subtle beauty and outright brilliance. It actually put me into a mild depression:
"Why am I trying to do this? I'll never create something that beautiful. That meaningful. That moving. That special."
"But, how can you not try? How amazing would that experience be?"
"Am I really just craving an amazing experience or do I want it all?"
"Fuck. You want it all."
"And why open myself up like that? What if people hate it? What if they hate me?"
My husband has thrown out the idea of being afraid of success. In order to reach the heights that I constantly daydream of, I have to be willing to open myself up to criticism and critique. Some readers love my scripts, some are indifferent, one really hated one, and some just "don't get it."
The reader/judge who hated one of my scripts and referred to it as a "trainwreck" proceeded to explain in his/her comments that I, the writer, clearly did not know how orgasms worked (believe me, I do) based on a scene in the script. He/she stated the scene was so funny that he/she laughed out loud, but the reader wanted to make it clear that this scene was not intended to be funny. Well, let me make something clear: That scene was entirely meant to be funny. When I read this person's comment, I was so perplexed that the reader had found the scene to be funny, which was my intention, but didn't realize that it was my intention. What does that mean? What kind of sense of humor does this person have? He/she then proceeded to tear it apart in a few sentences and gave no constructive feedback. I get it. It's not for everyone. And although I actually found the comments hilarious, when I thought about it more, it angered me. I wasn't upset or offended that they didn't like my work. It angered me because had I been a first time entrant into the competition and this was the feedback I received for my first script that I was so passionate about, that would have destroyed me. Ironically, I made it to the Quarterfinals of the Academy Nicholl Fellowship, the same competition and year that this person was a judge for and with the exact script that he/she judged so harshly. So, some of his/her colleagues got the joke.
Honestly, I did find this particular reader's comments entertaining. But, I always get anxiety and sweaty palms when I open reader's comments. I think the ones that affect me the most and sting the deepest are the critiques that praise my scripts, but mention ways I can improve them even more. It's a great script. But, it's not perfect. It was almost there. Almost.
But, nothing I write or do will ever be perfect. So, why do I still do it? I know I care too much about what people think. I know that I'm too thin-skinned. And I know that these things can do damage. But, you either dwell on it or move on.
I've been a dweller most of my life.
But, things are starting to change in me and I feel it. Now, I think the bigger question for me is: How can I not? How can I not pursue this? It feeds my soul. It makes me feel alive. I wasn't ready to do this when I was younger. I didn't know myself well enough when I was younger. I didn't value myself enough when I was younger.
But, things have changed. I feel it. I know it.
My last post mentioned how insignificant my fears felt compared to what our grandparents went through to get to this country. But brushing my fears off as insignificant isn't productive. Fear needs acknowledgment. It needs to be told it exists so it can be conquered. Even though I still have those voices in my head doubting me and discouraging me, I know that they are there. I will still persist because how can I not? I have nothing to go back to. I have so much to look forward to.
I just have to keep pushing ahead through this land of dreams...