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Why Wasn’t I Invited?-Welcome to the Self Doubt Game of Being an Artist

Recently, the British Film Institute’s publication, Sight & Sound, conducted their once-a-decade poll where key professional film critics, writers, and directors are asked to contribute a top ten movies of all time list. It’s a very prestigious thing, which means you know was most definitely not asked to the party? Your girl over here!

Now, before you think I’m about to go all boo-hoo and buy a wah-wah pedal, they have asked some stellar voices this year that should give a healthy mix of titles. (Including some folks that I have had the experience and pleasure of working with, past and present!) These are individuals that, truth be told, possess a knowledge that has more breadth and girth than my own. Sure, I may know more than the average bear, but given that the latter’s definition of “classic cinema” probably goes back to the 1990s, it ain’t saying much. Plus, even in the finest of evening gowns, I’m the type whose bra strap will inevitably peek out as a few “colorful” words slip out of my mouth.

What can I say? It’s a gift and a curse.

Seriously though, when you’re a creative, it can be easy to let yourself get in that noxious headspace of doubt. We live in a world where so many break things down to how many likes, shares, retweets, views, etc, etc. your work gets. It’s nothing new, especially since social media clicks are a new tech mask loosely glued on to good old fashioned box office. But these can be distractions from focusing on what’s really important, which is you, your voice, heart, and the misfit art elf community that unites us all.

Any writer, musician, painter, poet, filmmaker, actor, etc etc has those dark clouds and feelings of being over and underlooked. Your biggest art hero in the world has, dollar to donuts, seen a fellow peer do something they wanted to do and felt insecure and rotten about it. It’s not the prettiest look but it is one of the most human. It’s also easy for us to get locked into modes of “..THIS is how you do it and any other way is wrong…,” but that’s a fallacy too. For a very long time, I was stuck in the mindset of being borderline anti-academic when it came to film and cultural writing. I’m not the biggest fan of it as a reader still, but I realize that having such hardline views on something as gloriously fluid as writing and art is beyond absurd.

Someone on Twitter awhile back had criticized some of the boutique labels for hiring certain writers that include personal details in their essays and commentaries. Was it about me or some of my cherished comrades? Maybe? Probably? Who knows, but the beauty about free will is that you don’t have to read or listen to anything you don’t want to. Everything created has validity to somebody out there, so for fellow creators to get pissy with each other is as moot as it is harmful. Also, to invoke my late friend and personal inspiration, writer, actress, and dancer Jody Maxwell, “...what other people think of me is none of my business!” (God, I miss that woman.)

Something I have said before in other essays is how this world isn’t necessarily built for artists, which is why it is vital for all of us to support one another. We have to fight just to be ourselves and keep creating in an environment where cyclical history wounds and maims, the planet is screaming, and Gwyneth Paltrow is still famous. (Forgive my minor hypocrisy here, but the founder of GOOP is rich, white, and privileged. She’ll be fine.) Yet, despite all of the hardships, especially the ones we internalize, here we still are, surviving, loving, and creating. Feeling little pangs of disappointment, rejection, and even jealousy is going to happen, but like any emotion, it is all in how we handle it. Lighter fluid is awesome if you need to start a fire but will damage you internally if you start chugging it.

So, if you’re reading this, my own little personal search and thoughts on navigating life as a writer, thank you. No matter what shadows you have to deal with, I hope you remember that you’re stronger than you feel and more needed than you know.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to look for some all-time great movie recommendations.

1 Comment

Feb 18, 2023

Fantastic articles here Heather! So enjoying your writing ✍ That bit about chugging lighter fluid is one of the best lines I have ever heard concerning art and processing negativity creatively. This is particular article is so important. Thank you for posting it! Keep it up. So glad to discover your work💥💃💥👏

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