Crippled by self-doubt (So…I shot my first film and why it took 15 years – part 7)

6. Crippled by self-doubt

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

(Bertrand Russell)

Does this mean I believe myself to be a wise person? No, the term comes with too much baggage. But I do know that I am neither a fool, nor a fanatic of any kind.

And, that I am filled with constant and stubborn self-doubt about my capabilities, and about every single thought and story idea that I have written down. Neither does it help in any way, when I read that apparently, self-doubt and creativity go hand-in-hand. No. I want to be confident, even arrogant about my ideas so that I am propelled to bring them to fruition and share them with the world. I don’t want to be wasting away precious time mulling over how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ I think they are, while the days go by.

But what I want to be, is different to what I am.

Sadly, the initial euphoria felt at receiving some kind inspiration is short-lived. The little voice in the head that reassures me of the ‘originality’ of my idea quickly starts to lose his voice and I am left with another louder booming voice taunting me. I am now being accused of being an imposter, and all my ideas as nothing more than jazzed up cliches. Whose time am I wasting? There is nothing original to be said, as everything that needed to be said already has been said.

Creative Process of Doubt 3

So now all I am left with is crap. My thoughts are crap. I am crap. There is no escape from the nightmare of mediocrity, as this is where I belong. In a large grey ocean of mediocre crap, with all the other crap, floating aimlessly, till we decay and disappear. As if I never existed.

‘The story sounded great when I thought of it, but now it just sounds silly’

‘I’m not original, I’m just imitating’

‘I don’t have the talent to be doing this’

‘I don’t know the first thing about directing or shooting a film’

‘I can’t ruin my perfect story by shooting it hastily. I need absolutely everything to be perfect’

This self-doubt compounded by the already well-settled melancholy are a match made for creative hell. Yes, there will be no action here my friend.

Progress, not perfection is the solution

But there is a way out…sort of. Let me talk to myself and knock some sense into this crazy head:

  • Perhaps everything that needed to be said has already been said. So what? Only you have your eyes, your dreams, your memories, your soul, your life. Share it with the world, because there is only one of you created in this world.
  • Yes, it’s impossible to let go of this pursuit for perfection at any point in this creative journey. And being obsessive about every single detail is part of your nature. It is the plague and gift granted to many great artists. But remember: there will never be that perfect moment, to shoot your perfect story, with your perfect crew, and your perfect camera, in your perfect location. What is ‘perfection’ anyway? Whose definition is this. Let it be imperfect, but let it be your imperfection.
  • Make progress. There is a long journey ahead of you. So do a little each day. Every day. Before it’s too late.
  • I know it hurts to watch your film back. There are countless ‘imperfections’, these ‘mistakes’ are glaring and make you feel hopeless. It didn’t turn out exactly like you wanted it to. But, just let these days pass. Sleep. Dream. Wake up. Its a new day. Transform these ‘mistakes’ into lessons learnt for next time. Because, this is all last time, and now there will be a next time.
  • Think about what you now have. Your film. The one you imagined. The one you wrote. The one you directed. Think about what you have finally become. A filmmaker.

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.

(Salvador Dali)

Fear of the unknown (So…I shot my first film and why it took 15 years – part 8)