My work has changed lately. I’ve been trying to figure out why and how, and this is where I’ve landed:
As a freelancer or employee, whether or not you’re doing a good job can be measured in a very binary way — you created your widget or you didn’t. You were focused or you were distracted. You succeeded or you failed. You were on time or you were late.
As I’ve spent most of my time over the last year as a full time screenwriter & producer, the metrics have changed, and so has the way they are measured. There are variables. Binary is no longer a reality.
Showing up on time, number of pages, distraction vs focus — sure, you can still use some of these to measure and quantify the work done on a given day, but do those metrics reveal any sense of value?
I think no.
So how do you know if you’re doing a good job???
That’s the question that today lead me to write this:
My whole life I’ve been very focused on outcomes. In some ways this has become a limiting belief — there are things that I’ve never tried because I was too afraid that I wouldn’t be good at them.
In other ways it’s caused a ton of stress and frustration because with art, there are lots of things that can’t be objectively measured or quantified.
Sure, you can say something was a “success” because of some dollar amount associated with it. When I emailed a (very famous) indie producer about this question, his reply was “profitability”. Obviously his track record would imply that profitability is a result that comes with great stories, but in other cases it’s not necessarily true.
In our business, the script is not the product. You don’t sell your script to an audience, nor do they consume it or experience it. The final form of a script is a film…
So, I’m sitting here freaking out about “is this script any good” and “what if I’m not as good as I think I am” and “what if I fail”, and I realized something:
All of my fears are centered around pride.
I was focusing way too much on what other people thought, or what it may or may not do to my career, or what it would look like if I failed. These are not helpful thoughts, but still I was experiencing an incredible amount of fear.
Fear to the point of being blocked, not being able to create, too afraid to try. That’s not a great place to be, and I wanted to get out of that place as soon as possible.
So, here’s what I did: I went to work.
I realized that the success of the film — and therefore the screenplay — can’t be realized until the script is actually done, so I need to get to work and finish it. I’m lucky, I guess, that I’m able to turn off the part of my brain that was so afraid that it hurt, and can just dive in and work.
But you know what? Soon as I did, the fear started to go away. So, in this one instance, this minor example, the answer to fear is work. You have to exercise some faith in order to do the actions that constitute “work”, and I think that faith and fear, or maybe work and fear, can’t exist simultaneously.
So you feed one and starve the other, and you get through it, and then you can be afraid about something else later, like “will the critics like my movie?” or “will people actually pay money to come watch this thing?”
But for now, you work, and you finish, and it feels pretty damn good.