Rejecting Great Ideas

Photo on 1-25-15 at 2.03 PM #3

I know that the blog has been all over the place and for those of you who have stuck with it and continued to stay with me through this process, I appreciate your patience in that regard. I’ve resisted the urge to be more controlling about the overarching themes or to try to write it as a cohesive, chronic narrative of any sort. I guess if there is a “through line” at all, you’re getting to watch my process as it unfolds (God help you). If nothing else I am a veteran who has seriously considered suicide and am doing my best to find my way out of (hopefully never to return) to that place. Perhaps something will be learned to help other veterans and those who love them. My greatest hope for you, my readers, is that you take away some benefit that can make your own lives better, even if I ultimately fail. I don’t intend to fail. If I die, I’ll die trying and my strong intention is that it won’t be at my own hand.

On the list of “symptoms of an underearner” that my friend sent me, the second symptom on the list is:

Idea Deflection. “We compulsively reject ideas that could enlarge our lives or careers, and increase our profitability.”

This one makes me a little angry, which is why I know that it is probably spot-on. Of course you know, as long as I have been telling myself and others that I am an artist and an activist, this is not the first time I’ve reached out for help with regard to my career aspirations. This is the first time however that I have reached out for help with specific regard to the underlying cause of my underearning. Again, I want to speak up for myself and say that when I have been unsuccessful in my chosen career field has not been because I’m lazy. If it were that simple I could simply address laziness and “get off my ass” and start to work. I work. Some of my close friends have often pointed out that I am a very hard worker— I just suck at asking to get paid for it. I believe that this is true. I would also like to remind us all that even though this has been the truth of my past, it need not be the truth of my future.  I come from a long line of hard workers. Being a hard working is part of the way that Southerns are are taught to feel good about themselves. (I know that this phenomenon is not peculiar to Southerners but I doubt any of you who are Southerners yourselves are any of you who know a Southerner would argue that this is not part of the Southern ethos.)

I’ve gotten a little off track. Let me try to redirect. This is not the first time that I’ve reached out for help with my career as an artist and an activist. I’ve gone to people who function at the top of their field (activists, actors, producers, directors, managers, et. al.) and said essentially, “What must I do to be saved?” I got a lot of crappy ideas along the way. [One (surprisingly successful) producer wanted me to change the name of The Eyes of Babylon to Naked Marine.] And there have been a lot people who’ve told me how great I’d be at selling real estate or pharmaceuticals. I once went to a person who has been a visible and successful artist and activist since the 60s and said, “How do I use my Art to help people and still sustain myself?” She said, “You have to go to rich people and ask for money.” I thought, “What the hell do you think I’m doing?!” But did I say that (or some more tactful version of it)?  No. Too afraid.

Fear has been a big hinderance in my pursuit of my dreams and I know I’m not alone in that— especially among other people who have less conventional careers. (If you want to be a doctor and you have the capabilities and resources, you can pretty much become a doctor. No one ever responds to someone’s saying they want to be a doctor with “which restaurant?” but actors and writers have heard this old tired joke a thousand times.) So I know that fear has been what stood in the way of my producing my work (or getting it produced) and in the way of my dream of staffing those productions with other Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. That’s so odd since I am willing to put myself physically in harm’s way to defend people or principles. How the hell does it make any sense that I’d rather risk getting shot or beheaded than to call a theatre company’s Artistic Director or fill out a grant application?  Or even worse, just to simply sit down and work on my scripts. I know the answer. I know where the fear comes from.

The root fear for me is the fear of rejection. This is particularly problematic since I am in a business where even those functioning at the top of their fields have some of their ideas and projects rejected. My fear is rooted in the events of my youth. I was often rejected during my developmental stages and that has had a long term effect on me. That’s not gong to stop me. Hell no. I just have come to point where I’m willing to reach out for help in getting through that fear and still being able to do the things necessary to see these goals come to fruition. (By the way, the goals are under revision and I’ll soon share those with y’all.) I now realize I can’t do this alone. Alone, I am powerless over the phenomenon of underearning. I also know I’m not the only person to have some damaging things happen to him or her during the all-important developmental stages and there are people who had it much worse than I did for sure but there are also people who have had the same sort of things happen to them and have then gone on to thrive— hell, at times in my life, I have thrived. I want thriving to be the hallmark of my existence from this point forward. Letting the fact that some bad shit happened to me keep me paralyzed, is soon to be a thing of my past.

Getting back to the “underearning symptom of the day,” I know that I have “rejected ideas that could have increased [my life and career,] and increased [my] profitability.” In the midst of all that bad advice I got along the way, I’m sure I have gotten good suggestions too. What I would do instead of accepting the good ideas and putting them to them to work is that I (again, out of fear) just busy myself with doing things I wasn’t so scared of or letting myself lump the good suggestions in with the bad.

So far, out of the two symptoms I’ve shared with you from the list my friend sent me, I have both of them. I’m 2 for 2.

I know this thing that I set out to do is possible. I know that my goals are not only possible but probable if I keep it simple and remain teachable, do the next right indicated step and continually reach out for help— especially with this fear thing.

As always, I appreciate your taking this journey with me.

I’m still here in Utah. My family, friends, and I are in our third day of seeing films at Sundance Film Festival, second day of double-headers. Trust me, the irony of my acute circumstance vis à vis my chronic circumstance is not lost on me.

See y’all tomorrow.

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