“Fear Finally Wore Me Down”
For years I’ve wrestled with my negative inner monologue: “Will I ever get my career off the ground?,” “Am I doing everything I could be doing to succeed?” and “If I have a baby now, will everything I’ve worked so hard for come to a grinding halt??” I was exhausted by these solo conversations and never felt like I was getting closer to a satisfactory answer.
But then, while attending a workshop about creating content on YouTube, I came up with the idea for my current show, “Does This Baby Make Me Look Fat?”. I was thrilled because in one fell swoop this show had the potential to combat all my fears at once: (1) it’d be a great calling card, (2) I was creating my own work and (3) having a baby would actually enhance this project! When has anything been this easy? And as soon as I finished patting myself on the back for being possibly the smartest, most creative person alive…
…My brain immediately exploded with all the new fears that I hadn’t even thought of if I pursued this project.
These fears basically boiled down to the three things listed below that I had to overcome (and continue to overcome) in order to move forward with creating my own work. I hope they resonate with you as well, as I think they are fears that have the potential of holding all of us back as we try new things and take risks when pursuing our careers.
1. Quality Control
Recurring scene at Stephanie’s house: It’s Monday night at 11:45pm and Stephanie is finalizing an episode for tomorrow’s posting. She turns to her husband, again, and asks, “You’re sure this isn’t a total piece of crap?”
It goes without saying that we want everything we do to be up to our high standards. But there’s a delicate balance between striving for the best…and never getting started. Which is exactly what I did... I sat on my “brilliant” idea for the show for an entire year. Yep. A whole year of thinking about it everyday but paralyzed by the fear that I would never be able to make it good enough. It wasn’t until I was totally exhausted by my fear, and out of valid reasons to delay starting, that I finally sat my butt in a chair and wrote my pilot episode. All my fear finally wore me out.
And I still struggle with the fear of not knowing if an episode is “really ready” on a weekly basis. I’ve never kicked back after an upload and said “Steph, you’re a genius!” But at some point you have to move past the fear of it “not being good enough” and being okay with “eh, it’s probably good enough.” There is no perfect, just progress.
2. Overcoming Technology
Recurring scene at Stephanie’s house: Stephanie half-heartedly messes with the aperture setting on her camera and quickly concludes that if the automatic setting can’t make the shot look good, it’s probably not worth shooting.
You would think I was born before 1950 by the aversion I have to leaning new technology. And when I started my YouTube show I knew absolutely nothing about how to get it done. I didn’t know which camera to buy (let alone how to work it), if I needed lights, which editing program to use, how to upload a video on YouTube, etc.
I feel like fear of the unknown, especially when it comes to gadgets and software, is something so many people struggle with once they decide to create their own work. But here’s the beautiful thing I learned when I started my show: You don’t have to know how all that stuff works to get it made!
The truth is, you only need to know the bare minimum to get started. Learn from my mistake: I knew I needed to learn the basics of editing for producing my show. So I decided to take a four-day class to learn Avid (the editing program that most major blockbuster films are cut on). What. Was. I. Thinking?!? A free two-hour, online tutorial could have taught me iMovie – which would have been more than enough knowledge to get me started. So much of what we need to learn is just the bare minimum and we’ll always be able to find someone to guide us on something we don’t know. Los Angeles is literally busting at the seams with talented people who will shoot and/or edit your stuff for free or very little money. We all need to start somewhere.
So get over the fear of technology ASAP. It’s rarely as bad as you think it will be (and even if it is, you learn from it), there are plenty of people to consult if you don’t know what you are doing (Google being the best resource) and nowadays software is so easy to learn that it’s actually even easy(ish) for the technologically petrified.
3. Personal Exposure
Recurring scene at Stephanie’s house: Stephanie is about to post another episode that discusses sex and thinks to herself, “Maybe my parents will just forget to watch this week.”
The personal exposure element of my show was the toughest thing to wrap my head around and I was worried about the subject of the content. People are so guarded about their fertility and the early stages of pregnancy – wasn’t this a dangerous road to go down? YES! I still can’t believe I signed myself up for this…
However, whatever fears I had about overexposing my reproductive health (“what if I can’t get pregnant?” “what if I have a miscarriage?” “what if people HATE hearing me yammer on about myself week after week??”) were far outweighed by the fear of sitting on a potential comedy goldmine and doing nothing about it. So in a very un-me like way, I had to throw up my hands and just say, “Whatever happens, happens.”
And then the craziest thing happened - instead of feeling totally overexposed in a negative way, I saw my audience grow because of the sensitive subject matter. I set out to just put out funny material, never fully realizing how much it would resonate with women and couples who were trying to get pregnant. With everything I feared, the opposite came true. Which goes to show how much we can let our imaginations run wild about the worst that could happen, and don’t spend enough time thinking about the best case scenario instead. Ultimately we all have to expose ourselves with our work, no matter the subject material. Which means we have to really “go there” in order for people to perk up and actually take interest.
And believe me, I still deal with the fear of overexposure as my show is in it’s second season (and I’m still not pregnant). I have no idea what is around the bend (and maybe everything really will come to a grinding halt when I have a baby – though I certainly hope not.) However after producing this show for nearly a year, I now have this quiet certainty that whatever I’m faced with I’ll be able to handle it.
Pushing through ones fears is easier said than done and I continue to struggle with it every day. But if we let our fears stop us, that will all but guarantee that our biggest fear will be realized – never having the career we want. No one came to this town because they planned on playing it safe. But hopefully if you are like me, giving into the exhaustion from your fear will be the last step before finally getting the work done.