I like to do lots of goal planning and daydreaming about the future. Fantasizing about what my life will be like 5 years down the road (scripts on the Blood List, feature film under my belt to name a few). I’m also the type of person whose entire day gets thrown off if her lunch order is missing ketchup with the fries.
So when things in the present start slipping and stop perfectly aligning to life wickets, I start becoming Very. Stressed. Out. Driving a warship through a Malaysian squid fishing fleet at 3am on no sleep is stressful. Being in charge of taking a nuclear reactor to 100% power is stressful. But Hollywood shouldn’t be stressful, it should be fun! We’re making movies and TV shows, not in charge of pressing the big red button.
Yet here I am, not even a full semester into my Masters in Screenwriting program and not even half a year into my new job, and all I can feel is that awful feeling of falling behind in your goals.
I moved to Los Angeles without knowing anything of what was in store for me. I knew nothing and nobody so I didn’t have any expectations of things to come. Now that I have experience and clear (not to mention lofty) goals, I have started to deal with the frustration accompanied with long-term planning. Without a day-to-day instant gratification of accomplishment sometimes it can start to feel like I’m just spinning on a wheel with no progress being made at all. But that’s technically not true because every little bit of work counts and that is why it helps me to take a step back and remind myself of the big picture.
It’s like that saying when you have a Hollywood job you can choose to have a life, exercise, or sleep but you only choose 2. Well every weekend I have to choose between reading scripts for work, working on my original screenplays for school, or editing my short film. Everyone has to make choices of where to focus attention, but when in your mind everything is equally important it’s easy to fall into a failure mindset when one thing doesn’t get the attention it needs to keep it’s associated goal on track.
I recently hit what I call shutdown mode. It involves my bed, the couch, and copious amounts of sleep and Parks and Recreation. It happens when I feel so hopelessly behind in my work that I just want to shutdown and hide from my work because I fear I’ll never get my goals back on track. But in reality these set backs are days, not years, and my “failures” are nothing more than self-imposed outlook because I choose to be hard on myself. So I have to take a breather and step back and recognize that I have these feelings because I care and I am trying. Trying hard.
I am happy to say that I have made it out of shutdown mode. It sounds silly but it truly helps to surround yourself with friends and peers who support you and can remind you of everything you have accomplished. I rely on this a lot because it makes me feel better and it helps put things in perspective. To get myself rolling again I create smaller goals on a week-to-week basis and remind myself not to be so hard on myself because if I wanted a job without any fun I’m sure I could get paid a lot more doing something else. Recognize that it all counts, whether it’s writing a page or reading half a script. It’d be nice to be Superwoman and be able to do everything right away but you have to make peace that sometimes you can’t and that is okay. It’s still getting done. Is it really worth the extra gray hairs? The big picture is that you are making progress on your goals and have lots of people ready to support and cheer you on. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and give yourself some credit.