Anxiety and being creative. In other words, "Oh my God! Do I suck!?"


I'm having an unusual experience for me.  Anxiety about my creativity.  Normally I just plod along, do my thing and it doesn't generally bother me.  Sure there's anxiety when I get critiques from people or do read-throughs with a group.  I'm pretty much used to that anymore.  But now, I'm getting ready to direct my first narrative short film, which I also wrote, and suddenly I feel like I'm waiting for my self-esteem to plow through puberty again.  At least I have the comfort of knowing that St. Deadpool knows my pain.

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It's filmmaking - it's complex, there are a lot of moving pieces.  And it takes a team of people to make happen.  I ran a mid-sized LARP (20-50 people) for five years (Yes Virginia, I'm that much of a nerd), so the organization and people part of it isn't what's tripping me up.  I think the issue is the technicality of it all - technicality that I'm not as well versed in.  I'm a storyteller, not a technician.  I'm learning the ins and outs of filmmaking (mostly how not to embarrass myself on a set), but when it comes to specifics, I depend on those who know more than I do.  And that, right there, may be the problem.  Having to depend on other people for my creativity to become real.    

When I write it's just me and my keyboard.  With sculpting it was long hours in the studio by myself.  I've worked on plenty of collaborative projects over the years, but in most of those cases I pretty much knew what the hell I was doing, or at least I wasn't "in charge" if I didn't.  Right now I feel like the poster boy for "Fake it till you make it!"  Don't get me wrong, I trust my filmmaking partners in crime.  They are some of the most awesome, creative people I've ever met.  And they know their stuff.  But the feeling of dependence sets the anxiety engine churning.

The great "What if?" machine is working overtime.  I think a lot of creatives run into the "What if?" monsters.

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What if someone doesn't do what they're supposed to?  (Again, I trust my crew, but those anxiety tapes still play.)

What if my actor gets sick?  What if they get hurt?  What if someone's car breaks down on the way to the location?  What if... What if... WHAT IF!

The location we're shooting in is dry and I had a nightmare last week about accidentally setting the whole damn place ablaze.  And the list of possible transgressions goes on and on.

I've been trying to do my part in the art department, building some things, dyeing some things, and generally getting my hands dirty.  So far, that's pretty much been an all-out bust.  That's just frustrating.  I've done a lot of fabric dyeing over the years.  I love working with fiber, weaving, dyeing, all that kind of thing.  Well, NONE of the stuff I've been trying has been working.  Something I "should" know how to do (Let the monkeys of self-loathing fly!  Fly my pretties!  Fly!) hasn't and... Woops! there goes another part of my self-esteem into the chipper-shredder.

As a pyro and metal artist, I was going to build a flame bar for us to use (please refer to nightmare about setting all of Western Washington on fire above).  A flame bar is used to put an easily controllable fire in the foreground of whatever your shot is.  For our purposes, the shot is looking across a campfire at our actor.  After spending a week or so researching and designing one, I was out buying the parts when we decided (-rightly so-) to not do it.  Given how we're filming, it just made people nervous.   My dream about burning the whole place to the ground would seem to indicate I too was less than a hundred percent on the idea.  So, there's another couple of days of creative work down the tube.


I don't know about anyone else, but I hate embarrassing myself in front of my friends.  I figure that's probably a pretty common thing.  Well, here we have a script I wrote, that I'm directing (faking it), with a bunch of technical requirements such as lenses, lighting and sound that I'm not a pro with, being shot outdoors where God only knows what's going to happen - all in front of my friends.  No pressure...


I love film as a storytelling medium.  The only way I'm going to get better at it is to do it - and risk sucking in the process.  And as a late addition to all this, I got word last night that another publisher passed on my first book, Tomahawk Incident - so there's another kick in the creative balls.

I just have to keep reminding myself that my friends don't think I'm as much of a dumbass as I feel like I am and that getting out of my comfort zone is where I really learn things.  All that rational stuff and a lot of "breeeathe... breeeeathe..." keeps the worst of the fear and anxiety at bay.  I tell myself that if I'm learning, it's about change and there's alway some discomfort that goes with that.  Sometimes that discomfort is a twinge.  Right now, it's more like a barrel of bricks being dropped on me.  

So on that thought, I'll leave you with a song about a barrel of bricks that pretty much sums up what the anxiety beating currently feels like.