You lost it.
Your passion and motivation are gone.
We've all been there.
Whether you have writer's block or are in an acting slump, it seems hard to get through it. I've been there too and I want to share the lessons I've learned because of it. Creators create and when that fire withers away, it can be life changing and painful.
For me, it was devastating and debilitating. I couldn't cope. It took me ten years to find my footing, after losing everything. I left a great University and a degree in Criminal Law. After the struggle I went through, I thought that I finally found my calling. I couldn't see myself doing anything else. Music, composing, and screenwriting was everything to me. Well, can you believe I lost that too?
For an entire year, I did not score a film, work on any original content, or finish a script. I no longer found joy in my craft. I lost motivation.
Maybe you are in the same boat right now?
If you are, ask yourself these questions:
I know, we all want to be the master of our craft. We want to be able to bang out a script every month, or book every other gig, or direct a big budget feature. However, once that dream starts to shape itself, pressure it takes hold of you and drains your freedom.
There is something that changes you when making that shift between hobbyist to freelancer/working creator. Now that you're pursuing a career, it IS about the money. You have an obligation almost, to satisfy the client and put out your best work. You feel like you have to beat the competition in every single game. That pressure can and will suck the joy and fun out of what you love.
How do you change that?
Pick up another hobby, maybe something far away from what you do now. Regain that spark and thirst for knowledge. Remember that feeling when you first started out? Your work was probably crap, but goodness knows you kept going and shot that low budget guerilla style short film that is on VHS down your basement. You remember that feeling, right? Take a second and breathe. Remind yourself that you are not perfect and you never will be, nor are your colleagues, and that is OKAY. You have to keep growing. You will make mistakes.
You are on your own timeline. The people you see at the top started where you were. Yes, there are exceptions, but remind yourself that all of your experiences are something nobody can take away. Give yourself credit. You made it this far. You made it past the doubts, struggles, long nights behind the desk, those difficult customers that didn't tip, and rejections.
Now, keep going.
I used to think about the "what ifs."
What if I didn't take years to finally graduate?
What if I took that offer and went to New York at 20?
I was so stuck in the past that I completely stopped doing what I love. I said, "Well, my time is up. I'm 28 and I'm stuck working as a cook. I'll never make it."
Maybe you are saying the same thing. Let me tell you, it does not matter how old you are or if you have a degree or if you are a single parent with five kids, you can be successful. You can be happy. You deserve to enjoy life and follow your dreams. Will you be like Tarantino or Nolan? Probably not. But the world already has those guys.
Be you. Let the world hear your voice. You have an experience nobody else has lived. Let the world see you.
This is a big one.
I remember traveling two hours each way to work at a restaurant I could not stand. I would work to make ends meet and when I came home close to midnight I worked on my craft. Sometimes, I would stay up for hours writing and making music knowing that I had to be up and out by 5 am for my 7:30 shift. Eventually, it all came too much to balance. Either my work or my craft had to suffer. I had to choose my job - I had bills to pay after all.
This unhappiness went on for months until the stress and misery took a toll on me physically. I had to go. Sometimes you have let go. When what you love becomes a chore and a burden, look at the things around you.
Is your relationship draining you?
Are you unhappy at your job or at home?
I'm not saying quit your job without a backup plan and move halfway across the world (or maybe you SHOULD take that leap), but take a hard look at your stressors and adjust. You only have one body and mind so please take care of it.
Don't forget why you started doing this in the first place. It's okay to take a step back for a bit.
Are you afraid of not 'making it'? Well, let me tell you that there is no 'it.'
Perfection doesn't exist. And even if it did, you shouldn't want it.
You need to keep growing and learning.
You need to make mistakes and my God, you will.
So, sit down and stop trying to be perfect. Yes, we want to master our craft, but you shouldn't sacrifice your well being, your mental health, or your joy to do it. Relax. Have fun. Mess up.
I have this paper weight on my desk. It says “Let New Adventures Begin.” Yeah, it is a generic quote you might say, but to me it reminds me to go for things that scare me a bit. Step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there.
This year, I did something that scared the crap out of me. I told my story to thousands of people from all walks of life. I wrote a blog for Stage 32 and because of that, I met the amazing Cali Gilbert and was given a once in a lifetime opportunity. I never would of had that if I would have listened to that voice telling me, "You don’t belong. You’re too old. You will never make it."
You never know what is out there. It’s scary, but man is it amazing when you finally face your fears.
I know some of you are saying,"Okay, but it is none of those things."
I get it. It's something deeper. I'm not licensed and I am not a provider, but I am living with depression and grief and I know how much it can suck the life out of a person. There were so many times I almost gave up and ditched this writing and music thing for my 9-5. I remember crying myself to sleep because I felt so worthless.
And then there were the nights I would just lie awake because of those voices of self-doubt. For months - years, I would not even attempt to write or play the piano. I would rarely go out.
Then something strange happened.
I started to get thrown into these situations where I was face to face with filmmakers, singers, novelist, dancers, etc., in the doctor's office, on the bus, customers at my job, the sous chef at my job, and even in the hospital after my mother's surgery. I couldn't escape it, really. I don't know if it was luck, chance, the universe or whatever thing is out there, but I just could not ignore my calling. Even in this deep depression, I could not ignore that small, flickering fire that was burning inside.
Now, I'm not going to act like I woke up and started composing again. No. I still tried to run. I still would sit in front of my keyboard frustrated because nothing came out. But, I was at my keyboard. I was attempting to write.
I started writing down (horrible) ideas for a script. It took another nine months probably until I actually did something that was decent (still crap but decent), but I DID SOMETHING. Obviously, for me, therapy and other methods help give me a boost, but in the end, I had to move a smidge each day.
If I got up and took a bit of extra time to pick my outfit, that was a plus. Those little things help build me up. And it slowly helped me start believing that I was worth it. That my voice mattered. Because it does and so does yours.
If you are depressed or down in some way, I encourage you to seek help and reach out in whatever healthy method that may be. Your passion will come back in some shape or form. It will come back, but you can not force it to. There isn't a clear cut guideline or all around cure for this thing we experience. Mental health is often the reason why our fire starts to burn out.
In the end, you need to take care of yourself. Stop trying to follow what the Johnson's are doing. You are unique. You have your own timeline and you deserve to be heard.
Shanika "Neeko" Freeman is a film composer and screenwriter
based in Baltimore, Maryland. Neeko has scored animated, feature
and short films along with various games and has worked with
animator and producer, Dan Ekis on his science fiction film GREY ISLAND.
She has also worked with director and writer, Harry Owens on IN MADNESS,
the official selection of the Pan Afro Film Festival and previewed at the
Los Angeles International Film Festival. Most recently, Neeko was featured
in the BEST SELLER "IT'S SIMPLY FILMMAKING" by author CALI GILBERT,
which showcases women in film and TV.
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