J. Michael Straczynski, the Fear of Failure, and the Sting of the Real Thing

For the past couple of years, I’ve had an annual tradition of watching a lecture J. Michael Straczynski gave at MIT in 2009. The topic was on fighting the fear of failure to accomplish your goals, of maintaining a desire to take chance and grow and improve, and how terrifying and worthwhile this approach can be. Here’s the link. The lecture is about 30 minutes, with a very fun and informative Q&A session:

http://techtv.mit.edu/videos/3633-j-michael-straczynski-the-julius-schwartz-lecture

Please note: I am huge JMS fan. Babylon Five remains one of my favorite TV shows for its ambition and execution and much of its writing (though I rarely liked the scripts other folks wrote for it. Thankfully JMS wrote 95% of them).

There’s a lot to find inspiring here. I know that’s how I feel when I watch it (and did as I watched it again yesterday). But I wish JMS spent some more time on the actual experience of failure as well as how to fight the fear of failure. They seem to be two sides of the same coin. There’s some discussion of it here, of course, but the thrust of the argument is that if you fight the fear of failure in the pursuit of your goals, great things will happen to you.

Though I feel like the word “eventually” should be tacked on to the end of that statement. Until then, you better love what you’re doing before it becomes work that garners sales or attention.

And there’s a lot of the tough-guy writer myths pumped out here (which makes for a great lecture) about living off of two hours sleep and Hail Mary deadline rushes. And I don’t doubt a lot of them were true, though the price paid for such an existence was never mentioned (though one usually hears “it was worth it” without much discussion of, say, the quality of the work itself and did anyone give editing help because he was exhausted, etc.). And, as I noted in an earlier post, we need to be motivated by stories of such dedication and drive from time to time. I just wish he’d said what he did when he walked away from jobs on TV like Captain Power or The Real Ghostbusters. Did he live off savings? Find new work? Did everything always work out for the best? That’s certainly the impression left. And if it is the case, it would be cool to get the longer story.

I know, that wasn’t the point of his talk. It’s probably me seeing it with different eyes after the second viewing. I still highly recommend folks check it out. It helped me get my gas tank full, for sure.

JSR

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About ridlerville

Jason S. Ridler is a historian, writer, and improv actor. He is the author of A TRIUMPH FOR SAKURA, BLOOD AND SAWDUST, the Spar Battersea thrillers and has published over sixty stories in such magazines and anthologies as The Big Click, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Out of the Gutter, and more. He also writes the column FXXK WRITING! for Flash Fiction Online. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Richmond, CA. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jason.ridler.56
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