Film nerd in sleep mode
The debilitating fear driving a wedge between me and my writing on cinema
I’m 25 years old and I’ve seen something like 2,876 films according to my letterboxd account. At my current pace, I’ll be hovering around 6,500 films watched by the time I’m 30. I’m so obsessed with cinema that this number terrifies me — not because of how large it is, but because it will only be a tiny fraction of all the films ever created.
What if I never get around to watching all the best films?
What if I’ve been wrong about films I’ve seen in the past and need to rewatch them in order to fully understand them?
What if I never have enough film knowledge to be right about the one film I need to be right about?
These are some of the questions I’ve grappled with since I started writing about film a year ago. I discovered a site called seenth.at through a mashable post listing the best social sites for film lovers. That’s where I wrote my first film review. I’ve tried close to ten different sites since then, but nothing can compare to the community, functionality, beauty, and simplicity of the space Letterboxd has built. It’s a lot like Medium in terms of the ability to easily surface quality writing and intelligent discourse. It isn’t all serious, though. Letterboxd-ers know how to have a good time!
The things I write there actually get read by people, which forced me to think critically about the films I watch instead of just consuming them at a breakneck pace. Now that I know I’m being heard, I’ve found it more and more difficult to write the lazy, uninspired, terrible pieces of writing I used to post in between the pieces I put some thought into. The pressure is on to push myself and create quality content since I’ll be read right alongside some ridiculously talented writers.
The more I learn about cinema, the more hesitant I am to share my in-depth thoughts on every film I watch. I find myself posting something quickly to twitter instead of writing a full post on Letterboxd.
I’m concerned that I’ll never get back to where I was when I began writing. Back then, I simply enjoyed discussing films. I wrote first and asked questions later. Sure, I wanted someone to hear what I had to say, but it was a pipe dream to think I could convince someone to see things from my perspective. Now that I know it could happen every time I post something, I’m scared that someone will trust my writing and I’ll be doing them a disservice.
This fear is driven by one question: What if I’m wrong? I’m no expert. At least… not yet. Occasionally I think to myself that once I’ve seen enough films (5,000? 10,000?), I’ll have the authority and credibility to share my opinion.
I now realize that this is problematic, but it wasn’t until I started writing this first post for Medium that I noticed how my behavior has changed due to this underlying fear. It’s like I’m stuck in a holding pattern until I feel like I’ve amassed enough knowledge to write about film well.
I’m not even talking about having a film career, here. I’m only talking about sharing posts on what is arguably the best social site for film fans — a place where you can truly express yourself in any format you like without the pressure of sounding professional or “right.” And somehow I’m still terrified.
It’s supposed to be fun!
It’s just supposed to be, you know, like, your opinion, man.
After spinning my wheels for too long trying to figure out this weird writer’s block I’ve been experiencing, I thought about what my favorite writers on Letterboxd and professional film critics have done to reach that status in my mind. I discovered that they have two things in common: they write consistently and they write in their own distinct voice. The quality may vary from post to post, but those two things keep me reading what they write and eagerly anticipating what’s next.
Shit. Is that really all there is to being a good writer? If so, I’ve been worrying about the wrong things! I shouldn’t be concerned with being right or having the most valid opinion. I can stop waiting to become an “expert” by reaching some arbitrary number of films watched. If I want to emulate my favorite writers, I should probably write things in a way only I could write them.