Don’t Stop Believin’

There’s a video that’s been floating around the interwebs these past few weeks that touched me to a surprising degree. Actor Jim Carrey is mostly known for his over-the-top comedy, but it turns out he is also capable of heart-felt poignancy, as you can see in this clip from his commencement speech at a recent graduation:

I think many creative types–especially writers on the journey towards traditional publishing–will relate to the sentiment at the heart of Carrey’s speech. Sometimes, the path towards whatever you’re passionate about seems impossibly twisting and muddled, a constant uphill slog pocked with unseen pitfalls and unexpected backtracking. Taking this “road less traveled by” (as per Frost) is a perilous gamble with terrible odds. And sometimes the temptation to give up can become almost overwhelming.

I am by no means exempt from these dark thoughts of failure and I often wonder if I ought to have chosen a more “practical” path, like Carrey’s father in his speech. Because doing something different is frightening, and lonely, and often discouraging. But I thought I’d share some of my own methods of coping with these worries, and why they work for me.

1) Accepting the fear and examining it.

Nothing chases fear away like staring it square in the face and saying “I know who you are.” Fear is natural, but to a certain degree it is also a choice. And when my fear gets so overwhelming that I’m ready to give up, I take a step back and try to think about what exactly I’m afraid of. Am I afraid that my life choices will leave me homeless and starving? No. Am I afraid that they’re making me a bad person, or denying some truth within myself? No, and no.

Usually, when I really think about it, the things I’m afraid of are so incredibly unimportant. I’m afraid of people not respecting me. Or I’m afraid of people laughing at me. Or I’m afraid of my voice not being heard. These are not real fears; at least, not real enough to make me give up my dreams.

“Sisyphus,” by Titian

2) Commiserating with people in similar situations.

The world is full of people trudging down the same tough, frustrating road that you are. Some of them may be behind you on the path, and others may be far ahead of you. But it’s still the same path. And wherever they are on that path, they can relate to what you’re going through, and may even have some tips on how to keep moving forward. While being a creative can sometimes feel isolating and lonely, no one is alone, and sometimes all it takes to chase the fear away is to reach out to others in similar situations.

3) Looking to those who have succeeded on your chosen path.

For every author with a tale of an agent deal on their first query or critical acclaim on their very first book, there are 100 authors with stories of multiple rejections and years and years of struggle and woe. Stephen King, J K Rowling, Agatha Christie, George Orwell, William Faulkner, and even serial best-seller Dan Brown had multiple manuscripts rejected by multiple publishing houses before their writing ever earned a cent. Some of the rejections were quite harsh, too: one editor told Vladimir Nabokov that his now world-famous novel Lolita ought be “buried under a stone for a thousand years.” Yikes.

But regardless of the onslaught of rejection they faced, these writers never gave up. And eventually, they all proved themselves to be worthy after all.

“Because when it comes to dreams, one may falter, but the only way to fail is to abandon them.” –Words of wisdom from NBC’s adaptation of “Dracula”

Are you ever tempted to give up on your dreams? How do you keep going when things get rough? Share you thoughts in the comment section below!

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2 thoughts on “Don’t Stop Believin’

  1. Shauna Granger

    This is a great post, one we should all read from time to time. Every couple of weeks or so I look at my husband and say, “Maybe I should get a desk job.” I know it’s a fear of not making enough money. That’s a huge fear for most of us because we don’t ever want to look at our bills and decide which to pay because we can’t pay them all. But Jim Carrey is right – you can have those fears at any job. I got a “normal” job right out of college that had nothing to do with my degree or being creative and I hated life. I gained weight, I counted the days until I had enough hours of PTO saved up just to take a day off, I was unhappy even though my paychecks were good. Same for my husband. Then we lost our “safe, normal” jobs and decided to throw caution to the wind and went for our dream jobs. No, we don’t have the same steady incomes we had or paid vacations, but we’re so much happier in every other way and who needs vacations if you don’t have to go to a job five days a week that you hate? So I have to remind myself this was a risk worth taking.

    1. Yes, it’s so true. I overheard a girl on the bus yesterday talking on her phone, she was almost in tears talking about how much she hated her job, but would never quit because she couldn’t take the uncertainty. It takes a lot of guts to break the cycle and try for something you really love. I applaud you and your husband for shooting for the moon!

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