You’ve had it in your head for years. That novel, that painting, that urge to be on camera or stage. There’s always a reason not to do it: you don’t have the time, you don’t have the money. These are often very valid reasons. You just have to ask yourself: are these reasons—or just excuses?
Look, I understand. I talked about all my grand ideas for over a decade and didn’t do a damn thing about them. I believed that I couldn’t force myself into inspiration, that it would pour forth from me when the time was right. In fact, I was crippled by perfectionism. What if this grand idea of mine turned out to be garbage? It was better to be brilliant in my mind than middling in real life. But honestly, I was as scared of success as I was of failure. What happens when you attain everything you want? Then you might have to—gasp—maintain it! So much pressure.
Part of the problem lies with our obsession with outcomes. “I will do this thing and I will become rich and famous!” Let go of that right now. The possibility of gaining notoriety within a craft is an outlier. It’s being struck by lightning. You have to do the thing because you truly love doing it. Any other motivation for doing it puts too much pressure on outcomes out of your control. It leads to comparing yourself to others on similar journeys, which is a good way to get miserable fast. I will admit though, I, myself, am currently wrestling with how one manifests success and abundance while simultaneously letting go of outcomes.
I think the key is just to be satisfied with what you have accomplished. So nobody wants to buy your painting—you made a painting! It’s better than the vision of it torturing you for all eternity. And speaking of eternity, I’m not sure where I stand on it, as a concept, but I’ve always been haunted by the notion that, when we pass on, we will be confronted at the pearly gates by all our unwritten poetry. Ouch.
It’s not for you to judge whether your work is any good or not: just do it. What is life if we don’t follow our hearts? Yes, sometimes you have to make sacrifices to accomplish your goals. I think of Tiffany Haddish—and the seemingly legion number of celebrities—who lived in their cars while they pursued their goals. I am not recommending you move into your car so much as I am illustrating a point: if Haddish could live in her car while pursuing her career as a comedian and performer, you can give up the daily spendy coffee drink to save up for headshots, or paint, or whatever investment you need to make to make your dream happen, be it money or that even more elusive resource, time. JK Rowling had to write during whatever spare moment she had between working and raising a family before she could become the fabulously successful TERF jerkwad we know her as today.
But here I am, focusing on grand outcomes again. I can also tell you about several “regular people” I know who wrote books and, not having luck with agents, published them on their own. What sentiment feels best in your heart: “I want to write a book” or “I published a book”? The latter you can be proud of forever, regardless of the reception it receives. To wit, last year, I made a movie called Division. I felt like I channeled the script, and I was intent on making it like a woman possessed. I went through the doors open to me to make that happen, and it is the thing I am most proud of in my life thus far. Would I love it to be some big, underground hit? Well, sure. But even if it doesn’t find that reception, I have an internal satisfaction that I feel reverberating through my life in every way.
Lastly, I want to emphasize that dreams don’t have to be all lofty and artistic. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take a cooking class or travel to Italy. Or travel to Italy to take a cooking class. Whatever it is, if you set that intention, you might be surprised at how the universe conspires to make it happen for you. “Leap and the net will appear” is a cliché for a reason. If I told you about all the magical kismet I’ve had in my life, you might be annoyed, honestly. I attribute it to the fact that—for the most part—I have followed my dreams and operated from a place of love. And whoo boy, when I don’t? The repercussions are swift and flagrant.
Our society fosters the opposite. It fosters greed and envy and just doing what you can to get by. But imagine a world where we were all more personally satisfied? Or, at the very least, imagine a world in which you were more personally satisfied. It affects everything—your health, your relationships, and ultimately, your success. It isn’t always easy to strive for your goals, but it is rewarding. And, as we know, without great risk, there is no great reward. See? There’s another one of those good clichés.