Lowering the Stakes

On Sunday evening, I took a deep breath, opened a brand-spankin'-new Scrivener document, and wrote about five hundred words of Felicity's first episode. I was very proud. I even pasted that little chunk to a couple of good friends, who said encouraging things. It was, how do you say? A good start.

Later, after I'd tucked my kids into bed, I fell into a... I don't even know what to call it. An obviously misplaced unhappiness winding its roots deep throughout my psyche. Not depression or panic. More like a blue malaise, a funk, a sort of diffuse but all-consuming sadness. And I had no idea why.

The last time something like this happened to me for any protracted period of time, it was during the initial scripting for America 2049. This was one of the most difficult projects I've ever done, and it wasn't because of ambition or production challenges (though of course the project had both). It was because it felt enormous and important -- I'd been given tremendous creative freedom to convey a message that was very, very meaningful to me. So I seized up. There's a lot I'm proud of in that game, and a lot I think I could've done better, but to me "America 2049" will always be shorthand for that one summer I spent totally wracked with anxiety.

Suddenly, Felicity is sauntering in that general direction. It feels like the weight of my entire future career is riding on the outcome of this one little thing -- this experiment that I openly admit has a great chance of not working out (but you won't know until you try.)

And it's ridiculous. Ridiculous! This is one thing I'm trying, and it will neither negate prior accomplishments nor erase past failures.  Nobody will measure the sum total of my worth as a creator on this one thing. I mean, you won't, right? ...Right?

So what I need to do is figure out how to lower the perceived stakes. Make it more about having a good time and less about attracting throngs of adoring fans. Rearrange my complicated ecosystem of neuroses to let me do this one thing by telling myself it really doesn't matter much. Because it is not, in fact, my one shot at Making It Big. That's the thing to keep in mind: there's nobody on the other team waiting to take the ball from you. Not one! So you get to take as many shots as you like.

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