Last year I gave up a dream I'd been pursuing for 14 years, the dream of working in the film industry as a writer and filmmaker. My love started many suns and moons ago with a lightning bolt realization. I had daydreamed a vivid conversation between a grandmother and her grandson, and it was such an odd, cinematic vision that I wrote it down. Then it hit me, "THIS must be what it's like to write movies!" I went on to devour any book about the craft that I could find, and write my first feature-length script in a week.
As years passed I wrote more scripts, produced and directed my own short films, moved to Hollywood and worked for a big screenwriter. Later, I worked in casting and production. I won some small awards for my scripts and films, and worked for little or no money in pursuit of a self-made, hands-on education. As the years dragged by I saw more peers - and students - pass me by. And, I got more tired, more broke, more hurt from rejection, more sluggish in my output.
I had given up this pursuit twice before following long stints of feeling like I was in the desert without a drop to drink, but last year, on the eve of my 40th birthday, I did it again. I called it quits for good. I gave myself 100% permission to stop struggling. It was hard. Especially because I love screenwriting and filmmaking. But bitterness, come to find out, does not become me.
After I got over the initial depression and despair about spending my whole adult life pursuing an impossible dream, I felt liberated. My creative flow that had been so pinpointed, so stopped up, opened wide again. Other outlets and mediums presented themselves. Ideas started to bloom again along my mental riverbanks. Unexpected possibilities arrived at the proverbial doorstep. (This website being one of them).
The most curious part of it all? I've gotten hired for more film and screenwriting jobs in the last year since I "gave it up" than any previous year. Not only that, but the projects I was hired on were "real" jobs with reputable organizations and rising star filmmakers, and they were projects I felt qualified and excited to do. In short, I set free what I loved and it came back again with a vengeance.
This got me to thinking about WHY it happened this way, and that's lead to a few revelations about the power of giving up. I laid them out for you in nice bold letters below, 'cause I'm cool like that. Dig 'em...
We block energy with our neediness. When you squeeze your fist into a ball, your knuckles turn white and blood stops flowing, but when you relax your hand a bit it starts to flow again. The same is true for our creative pursuits. When I was clinging so tightly, working so hard, yearning so deeply for the Almighty End Result, I blocked the flow of energy - energy that freed up again once I pointed my attention in another direction.
Transmissions take time to reach the outer atmosphere. When you work for years at something you reach a lot of people - people on the Internet, or students in your classes, or people who come through that gallery show, or who read your fiction as judges in a contest, or people you've submitted to for a project. There are so many ways your work ripples out into the world, but often we only focus on the shut doors and dead ends. The truth is you can't ever know what's happening behind the scenes. Your creative work, when you put it out into the world, takes on a life of its own. Sometimes it takes a lot longer than anticipated to find the right home, and just because you can't see things happening doesn't mean they aren't.
Releasing attachment to outcome allows for a happier outcome. I'm not going to say, "It's all about the journey," 'cause I'm a big fan of end results. But, when I stopped not just expecting a particular outcome, but an outcome AT ALL, they happened in a way I never would've imagined. Having specific results in mind kept me narrow in my focus, which in turn narrowed my possibilities. The more I did my creative work (yes, while enjoying the process) and released any particular idea of outcome, the more unimaginably wonderful outcomes flowed to me.
Begging the universe for assistance pays off. At a certain point in the last year, I threw my hands up and railed at the universe, "HELP ME, WOULD YOU?" What happened shortly thereafter is, well, help arrived. (I wrote about that here, if you're curious.) I used to be an atheist, so it's taken me decades of searching, and more importantly, experiencing and experimenting, to understand that we are co-creators. When we partner with Source Energy (or Spirit, or "the universe", or God, or Higher Consciousness, or however you choose to identify it) we achieve results beyond our wild imaginings (which, it turns out, come from a much smaller vantage point.)
Enjoying life needs to be priority #1. It's not just New Age Hocus Pocus to say we vibrate at a certain frequency, it's a scientific fact. When we vibrate with joy our spirits are raised and so is our frequency. Since like attracts like, that frequency attracts more joy. The more I dedicated myself to joy and feeling good this year, the more joyful opportunities came to me. Those opportunities not only supported my own vision, but served a much greater number of people than I ever could have envisioned. That's what they don't tell you about being joyful - it truly is contagious.
It turns out that our deepest dreams and desires can be our greatest teachers. It's just that when we're stubborn, narrow-minded students like I used to be, it takes a bit longer to get the lessons.