Beginning a new journey can be as scary as it is exciting, especially if it requires leaving the familiar world and entering the new, the unknown.
It was back in the first year of my Arts degree that I thought about film-making. It just seemed like a great way of bringing all my different interests together, from narrative, acting, and design, to music and sound, etc. I’ve always loved film and the dramatic arts generally. I got the film bug early. As a kid I would often see films by myself from the age of 9 or 10. My mother was an actor so I spent a lot of time around theatre rehearsals and most of our friends were actors, writers, directors and other professionals. It was an incredibly rich and inspiring environment. Everyone was so passionate about their craft and the projects which they were immersed in. I especially loved visiting the huge wardrobe department attached to the State theatre and opera. Each costume was waiting to be brought to life – I dreamed of being able to use these in my own playing – pretending to soldiers, knights, adventurers. The main problem was they were all too big!
The arts were a regular part of my existence but I was also very aware of the challenges that came with this life. My mother always had to work other jobs to pay the bills and this was true for many other professionals in the industry. It was especially challenging being a single mother as well. Witnessing this meant that for many years my passion for film has been mixed with fear and an unwillingness to have a real shot for myself. At the same time, I always had the sense that it was, in a way, inevitable. But I still have to start somewhere.
Through my twenties, though I felt pressure to start, I didn’t have a story to tell. I was too embroiled in my own story. I felt that the story I told had to be fundamentally grounded in my own experience – basically, I had to live the journey before I could tell stories about it. In the meantime, I delved deeper and deeper into the world of epic literature.
But it’s almost three years now since finishing my PhD on the Iliad. More importantly, I’m starting to get the perspective I need to see the story and the transformation that is at the heart of the hero’s journey.
Starting from scratch can seem quite scary. It’s full of uncertainty. There are no guarantees. We can also fool ourselves into believing it’s already too late to start something new – and succeed, however we choose to define success for ourselves. This is a way of keeping ourselves safe of course, safe from the chance of failure, or even the chance of success (it’s funny how challenging the prospect of success can be, even if you think you want it). So embrace this uncertainty we must, I must, if we are to live in alignment with our deepest dreams and passions.
And it’s never too late. Only last month I got my racing license and competed in my first cycling race. I rode in a second race, a short criterium or ‘crit’ last weekend. It was great fun and it’s opened up a whole world of challenges and possible adventures. I also really enjoy just being part of something bigger and getting to know other people who enjoy riding. I’m naturally competitive so it’s also a way of focussing my training, while also giving me the opportunity to learn how to race – the tactical side. Until a few months ago though, I didn’t think this would be my scene at all. Again, I think this was mainly because I saw the risk of losing rather than the enjoyment of competing which I had no experience of. Thanks to a few of my riding mates though, I took the plunge.
On film I’ve taken small steps before. A few years ago I started making a small documentary about some of the fans of Cadel Evans. This got as far as the editing stage. This week though, I started writing a screenplay. I only had a couple of mental images to start from, nothing else. But I started with that, and each time I’ve sat down to work on it, it has continued to develop. One thing I love about the whole process is the fact that I can make it whatever I want to be. It’s quite a playful, liberating, experience – there are no rules. I’m reminded of one of Joseph Campbell’s quotes – “kill the dragon on whose every scale is written “thou shalt”.”
I think about many things when I’m riding, and on the road this week I was thinking again about what success really means for me. One thing became clear. Success is about taking this creative journey as a writer, creator. Of course, commercial success would also be good and as I develop momentum I want to be able to devote myself to it. It is important to have realistic objectives at every stage, so for the time being, my first is to develop a draft. As I tell my students, once you have a draft, no matter how good or bad it is, you have something which you can refine and share. Without a draft you have nothing. So, make the leap we must. We do, knowing that all who have taken the journey before us, have made the leap before us.
What can you do to move that bit closer to your dream?