Owning Your Writing Fears — and Ambitions

By Terra Joy Allgaier

maya-angelou-quoteI am a screenwriter. I am a screenwriter. I am a screenwriter. I still feel like a fake-ass impostor when I say it. It feels like an aspiration or at best a half truth.

I have TV episodes drafted, several more outlined, and the embryos of feature film ideas. I also have an industry coach/consultant and a growing list of connected contacts who seem open to possibly continuing to believe in me, of being in my corner. This identity and this career are in process, but I have no listable accolades or job titles as palpable evidence.

At a recent event for screenwriters, the speaker said, “I don’t care what stage you’re in. I don’t care if writing is your day job or your night job or your on-your-way-to-work/lunch-break job. It doesn’t matter. If you are here, if this is what you want, then you are a screenwriter. Own it.”

But here’s the thing—two things actually, two hang-ups lurking around my otherwise intuitive, full-steam-ahead, and sometimes cocky self.

  1. I’m not a published or produced writer.
  2. No one has read my script yet.

These are two plain facts that I have soaked in a vat of meaning. My fear filter is at high opacity, and I’ve turned not being published into not being taken seriously. All I want to do is incubate my words until they are grown enough to order their own drinks and nail their first job interview.

I’m having flashbacks to when I wanted to develop my own major in college. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and why it was important and different. It wasn’t crystal clear or unique or exciting to anyone else, and I couldn’t explain my way into it, so I had to settle for a degree that already existed.

Now I wonder: What if after all the coaching and pitch honing and networking and script refining, no one awesome will want to stay on my team? What if my idea is so strange and complex that there is no one else for my script to eat lunch with?

My two biggest fears in writing for public consumption are that I will get in my own way and that I will settle for a familiar, convenient life—one of public, traditional success and private, inconsistent creativity. But at the root of those fears is one big kahuna: that I won’t get to authentically express myself out in the world, that authenticity in moderation and in private is all that is realistic for my life.

As someone who has spent a large part of her life in survival mode trying to figure out what real respect, support, and safety look like, I have a great need to be known, understood, and respected. At the end of the day, I must choose to trust that my needs will be met by my self care, the people who care about me, or the universe/god that cares for me. I must trust that my fear is telling me something—maybe that I’m hot on the trail and just feeling the fear pounds as they sweat out, or that something is not in alignment with what I say I want.

Either way, the key is trust. I know in my bones that I have a unique story and a perspective to share. I know that something important happens when I write, no matter what comes of it. I know that I will continue to find support and enthusiasm, even if it’s not for the purpose that I expect.

When I’d kerplop into a tizzy, my mom used to say, “You can’t fix what you can’t face.” So here I am, dumping my fears publicly in good faith and staring at them in partial squirm, partial gratitude and relief. Fears have a job to do, so thank you for hanging with me while mine cleaned house.

What do you know in your bones? What truth are you kind of cocky about? What fears or truths need to come up so that you can get them out of your atmosphere?

Guest blogger Terra Joy Allgaier is chair of the Women’s Information Network Writing Group and a budding screenwriter. Just call her your friendly neighborhood movie fiend and pontificating philosophizer.

If you would like to write a guest post on the writing or publishing life, email us at Terri@possibilitiespublishingcompany.com.

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