Guest Post by Dimi Nakov: Overcoming My Fear of Writing
I always loved movies and telling stories.
My passion for images started when I received a stills camera for my 11th birthday from my grandfather. He taught photography to the older students in the local secondary school in Bulgaria in late 1980’s early 1990’s. During the photography workshops, I learned from him, how to develop and process the film and paper into photos in the dark room.
The Passion for Writing
I was captivated by the transformation of white paper into a black and white photo when immersed in the developing fluid. It was just like a motion picture story told in few moments on a piece of paper.
Furthermore, I became fascinated with the photographic process and developed quite the interest in photography. That soon transitioned into watching 1000’s of movies and subsequently studying Film and TV in New Zealand.
I love telling stories and love movies, but I had a problem I did not understand or I did not realize I had at the time. My realization came much, much later. I could not read for long periods of time. I would get distracted very easily, which by the way I still do. I will and still lose my trail of thought in longer texts.
My head starts to hurt if I read the only text without a break. There is nothing wrong with my eyes and I don’t wear glasses that might be making my eyes tired. As a kid, the only books I knew I could consume easily, were the comic books and some short articles with images, and this is still true to this day.
Fast forward couple of decades, I went to film school In New Zealand. Once there, I had to make a choice of either drama writing and directing or documentary writing and directing. Again I was afraid that I was not good enough a writer in order to study drama Directing. I knew that drama, the fictional writing was out of my league at the time given the fact I wasn’t a prolific writer nor reader and also English was my second language.
What Are You Afraid Of?
All those fears lead me to make a choice for taking on Documentary Directing. I believe it was an easier way forward and a hard choice at the time, but I also believe it was the correct one. Who knows?
I know I cannot change the past, but I can improve my present and future, by changing my way of thinking and reacting to things that happen to me and on the choices I make every day.
Documentary Directing came naturally for me. I even won a few awards for some of my short Documentaries. For years I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough for Drama Directing or writing fiction. That fear kept me out of dramatic, fictional screenwriting for few more years after graduating from film school in late 2008.
It took me years to figure out that the single greatest inhibitor to creativity is fear, but also if used correctly fear can become a valuable asset and energy fuel as well a motivator.
I had all those fears in my head and recently read an article by Scott Myers on his blog “Go Into The Story” that deals exactly with this issue that I am sure paralyzes many people from all walks of life:
Scott Myers Article that really depicted all my fears and how I actually dealt with them before I even read his article on 15th July 2017: Writing and the Creative Life: What are you afraid of?
So here are few of the thoughts that I had for years and Scott Myers shares within his blog:
I am afraid of typing FADE IN.
I am afraid I won’t be able to finish this script.
I am afraid I don’t have enough talent.
I am afraid the words won’t come.
I am afraid my characters won’t feel real.
I am afraid people won’t like my writing.
I am afraid people won’t like my story.
I am afraid I won’t get an agent.
I am afraid I am wasting my time.
I am afraid I don’t know enough about the craft.
I am afraid people will laugh at me.
I am afraid I won’t make any money writing.
I am afraid of not succeeding.
I’m not a psychologist, but I know enough that if I continue to allow these and other like-minded voices to dominate your thoughts, you will have a hard time nurturing your creative self.
So the question on the table is: How to deal with fear?
I don’t think there’s any right or wrong approach — a writer will do what they need to do to vanquish or, at least, manage their apprehensions. Sometimes you may be able to ignore the voice, the doubts, the insecurities — a good way to do that is to go so deeply into your story, your experience in that ‘world’ shuts out your negative thoughts.
Other times, you can use fear as a motivator: If, for example, you make a commitment, to friends and family, whereby you guarantee you will finish this script, your fear of public humiliation can spur you all the way to FADE OUT.
The simple fact is that whatever you do, you must do something, or else fear can devour your creativity.
Two of the greatest American novelists, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald, wound their way to Hollywood and worked as screenwriters. Read these quotes below, and see if you can grasp the palpable sense of fear in their words:
“I think I have had about all of Hollywood I can stand, I feel bad, depressed, dreadful sense of wasting time. I imagine most of the symptoms of blow-up or collapse. I may be able to come back later, but I think I will finish this present job and return home. Feeling as I do, I am actually afraid to stay here much longer.” — William Faulkner
“My only hope is that you will have a moment of clear thinking. That you’ll ask some intelligent and disinterested person to look at the two scripts. Some honest thinking would be much more valuable to the enterprise right now than an effort to convince people you’ve improved it. I am utterly miserable at seeing months of work and thought negated in one hasty week. I hope you’re big enough to take this letter as it’s meant — a desperate plea to restore the dialogue to its former quality…all those touches that were both natural and new. Oh, Joe, can’t producers ever be wrong? I’m a good writer — honest. I thought you were going to play fair.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald in a letter to producer Joseph Mankiewicz
My advice? Don’t avoid your fear. Don’t run from it. Rather, acknowledge it.
Feel it. Let it be. Let it breathe. Let it take you deeper into the core of your emotional self. You will discover things there you can learn in no other place. Emotions, memories, experiences have collected in that inner place for years, untouched because most people never go there.
If you can get curious about why you are afraid, what are the particular animating elements behind your fears, you will discover a deep reservoir of personal insight and, almost assuredly, great story “stuff” as well.
Once you know that you can go there, acknowledge and experience your fears, and survive that process — which you will because fear is nothing more than an emotion state — what you will unveil over time in going there and coming back is… courage.
The courage to give yourself…
To your creativity…
To your stories…
Each one a great unknown…
Waiting for what you will find in your creative journey.
The Birth of FGN
In 2009 I joined Facebook and went on to create an Indie FilmMakers Community called (FGN Inc.) FilmMakers Generation Next Inc. I wanted to keep in touch with my fellow filmmakers, but the group grew larger and larger as I shared the useful info I could find online and soon enough the group grew to be over 36,000 members who all share their work, tips and know how’s.
After running (FGN INC) FilmMakers Generation Next Inc. for a while Two Main Goals emerged:
- FGN INC. Exists to Connect, Motivate, Inspire & Support the Next Generation of Filmmakers worldwide
- FGN INC. & (FPF) “For A Positive Future” Campaign Blog Created in 2016 – Supports and Advocates for EQUALITY, DIVERSITY & MENTAL HEALTH in Film and TV Industry & Beyond.
So to get back on point, I was not born with a talent for writing, neither was I practicing screenwriting for long or since childhood, but I knew deep down inside that I love to be able to tell stories just like all those talented big filmmakers.
I let myself believe I could never be a writer because I am not like the other writers and readers before me, I so I never took on writing.
To escape I turned to watching movies and viewing stories others had the courage to make into motion pictures. Sometimes as kids, my brother and I watched 3-4 movies a day.
Even the local VHS Video Rental Stores in Bulgaria knew me and my brother by name because we used to rent so many tapes we became their VIP customers. They even used to hide some of the new releases for us under the counter so when we came to the store there always was a new release copy left for us.
Not until 2012 did I believe in myself enough to start writing. So after directing, producing and co-writing a number of short films, music videos, documentaries and corporate videos I began to realize I could tackle writing for the screen as well.
Thanks to my long-time collaborator and producer Graeme C., I started writing my first feature screenplay, ARA, and in 6 weeks I had my first draft. It sucked, but it was done and since then it evolved even more.
I was 33 back then. So for over 20 years, I was avoiding writing because I was afraid I was not good enough for one reason or another. It was all in my head. It was not true.
There is a good quote out there: “F.E.A.R is False Evidence Appearing Real” and that’s what it was. False Evidence I manufactured myself to be real at the time.
So in 2014, I started writing short scripts based on concept ideas. I would come up with ideas and write short stories to start with. I knew that I still had more to learn before I attempt my next feature script.
Not only because I needed to understand more about writing screenplays and its ins and outs, but also I could turn around more short scripts per year than feature screenplays for the first 2-3 years while learning the craft.
Also, those short scripts are my battle plan for going through script competitions and film festivals. Testing the ground for my stories/ideas and script writing skills.
In 2016 I Created Phoenix Writing Group and teamed up with another passionate storyteller and actress Jean M. Who also felt she wanted to develop her screenwriting skills while pursuing acting. So together we started pushing each other forward.
Since Feb-March 2016 we have been developing concept ideas and short sci-fi scripts together and it has been an eye opening experience. We also developed a system of how to come up with ideas and develop them into short scripts.
Each took about 3 months from inception. Since April 2017 we have two short scripts circulating the script competitions and film festivals circuit. We even have a few Finalist and Semi-Finalist placements, just a month after first submissions.
We have a clear battle plan for how many script competitions and festivals we are submitting our short sci-fi scripts and also what we will do with them once we get to the point that we feel ready to start writing feature screenplays.
All our short scripts and concept ideas are to become feature screenplays given the right opportunity and we can’t wait to get there.
Never Give Up
Finally, I’m starting to believe in myself enough to know that I am ready to continue learning and to catch up on all those years I lost by not believing in myself. I am seeking Producer/s and Writing/Directing Mentors to keep learning from them.
So if there is one thing I have learned so far, even from writing this for the first time, is that we all need to believe in ourselves just a little bit more in order to achieve our true potential, be happier in life and stop wasting time listening to the false evidence we manufacture in our own minds every day. We are worth it and we can achieve anything we want.
I love watching; dreaming and writing science fiction and I believe this genre is very useful to all of us as a looking glass towards the multiple futures ahead of us. Science fiction is so useful because it reframes our perspective on the world individually and together.
Like international travel or meditation, it creates space for us to question our assumptions. That’s why I believe science fiction is invaluable to the ambitious, and why companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple have brought in science fiction writers as consultants.
Exploring fictional futures frees our thinking from false constraints. It challenges us to wonder whether we’re even asking the right questions. It forces us to recognize that sometimes imagination is more important than analysis.