There are only about ten people on the planet who can really greenlight a preschool show. And I am scared of all of them. I shouldn’t be, I know. Most of them are very nice. Some are even my friends. But their power is so great and their decision making process so mysterious, that it’s only logical that someone like me, whose livelihood rests entirely in their hands, should experience some level of fear when in their presence. After all, if a baby was uncertain whether or not he was going to be fed from one day to the next, wouldn’t he develop a healthy fear of whoever was controlling his spoon and his apple sauce?
“What happened to you in Australia to make you say such things, Josh? Didn’t you just write a piece about how nice everyone is down under? Did a dingo steal your bibles?”
No, nothing like that. What happened is that I had a meeting about a new project with a very kind broadcaster here who was nothing but gracious. I, on the other hand, felt nervous, tongue tied, and awkward. Despite my many years of pitching, I allowed the real or perceived hierarchy that says, “BROADCASTER > INDIE” to get the better of me. It upended my equilibrium just like an old canoe, leaving me washed up and bruised in a foreign land.
I mentioned my broadcaster fears today to a friend here at SPAA and she said, “Yeah, my boss is older than both of us and he says the same thing, he still gets nervous and uncomfortable in every single pitch.” That made me feel both better and worse. Better because it meant I wasn’t alone in my dilemma. Worse because it sounds like this fear of the broadcasters is impervious to age or success.
I recall that when I was in an acting class in college I requested a meeting with my acting teacher to talk about my considerable stage fright. I remember he sat calmly in his heavily upholstered chair with a little white dog in his lap and said, with a Tennessee Williams drawl, “Josh, the ray-son you get so afraid is that acting matters so much to you. Puh-lease, you mustn’t punish yourself for carin’.”
And I think he was right. And I wonder now if my fear of broadcasters isn’t so much a sign of personal weakness as an indication of just how much I care about my preschool shows and the odd little characters I create. I mean, how could it not frighten me to share them with a person who has the power to bring them and their world to life?
I think the critical thing for me, and perhaps for you, is to not let our fear stop us. Maybe this fear is actually proof that we’re doing the right thing with our lives? Maybe the fear, as uncomfortable as it is, is meant to remind us that we’ve found something worth feeling nervous about? Maybe our fear means we’ve found our calling?
We’ve all seen what can happen when we don’t face our fears. I’m sure you know many sensitive people who quit their dream just when they are on the verge of breaking through. Not because they weren’t good, but because they were afraid. Without exception, these individuals descend into unhappiness and some become quite self-destructive. I’ve seen this a few times now, and it’s so very tragic.
Maybe your voice trembles a bit when you pitch. So what? And maybe you get a little stupid when you find yourself on the escalator at KidScreen with the broadcaster who hasn’t responded to your e-mails. Fine. And maybe you consider, every day, quitting this work you love because it’s just so hard and stressful. Go ahead. Consider all those things. Then shut up and go pitch your shows anyway.
Because I can tell you for a fact that it’s better to be a nervous wreck doing the thing you love than to be a cool dude doing something you couldn’t care less about.