“If u want to go fast, go alone, if u want to go far, go together.” —African proverb.
These profound words stared up at me as I flipped through an old—and what I had mistaken for a blank—journal last night. As I looked at the old notes, the quote, my sense memory reminded me of the dynamic and emotional journey it was to write my way through that journal, and what poetry it had been to find that perfectly timed, poignant and profound proverb—an offering to make a decision for my life’s trajectory.
I remember, distinctly, having holed up in my apartment during a fierce blizzard this past winter. I bundled up into my favorite cuddly sweats and spewed the outline of a story out onto the pages of that little journal. I had just suffered through a wretched break up with my ex, and—as often happens to many of us sentient beings—my emotions were coming—nay, pouring out through one of my preferred media of creativity. At first when I had sat down, I had thought I should’ve tried to funnel my story through the filter of a book, a narrative in which I had ultimate control over each character, each detail of the setting, of each scene, each morsel, component of the world that I had envisioned. But, the story was not meant for a reading audience. It was meant for a viewing audience. It was meant for the screen—or at least that was the message that I had been repeatedly receiving each time my hands moved closer to my keyboard.
However, I hesitated giving in to the impulse. Frankly, I was scared. I had never written a screenplay before, and this fear was paralyzing my hands, petrifying my confidence, and stifling the beautiful story that was banging on the door of my consciousness to escape. I knew the world of film and television was highly collaborative—as an actor, it was one of the most brilliant and exciting aspects of my chosen industry. There was truly no such thing as creating something, then following it through to completion, in a vacuum, by yourself. I had had a somewhat keen awareness of this from the vantage point of performance and production after a script had been printed and ready. However, I knew that I had no idea about all of the intricacies required to create one from scratch. I only knew that it was something I hadn’t done before, and my fear was telling me to stick with what I knew. But creativity is a feisty muse, and often stubborn in how it likes to burst out of its host and romp in the world.
I decided to bite the bullet, to sideline my fear momentarily, and write a screenplay. Or at least what had looked like a screenplay…which may have just been a story in the Final Draft format of a script. The new challenge of being so economical with my words, of using those precious few words to convey tone, emotion, a world of personality as well as narrative so that my vision of this newly created world wouldn’t be lost in the myriad of crew members and executive who could potentially collaborate on the project, was fiercely daunting—much more so than a short story or book. I had no idea what I was doing. However, once I had given permission to my creative genies to come out in the form of a screenplay, I finished it in ten days.
We have all had circumstances, ideas, projects, desires that we pursue, doggedly. We have all hung on tightly to said thoughts out of fear that someone may steal them, or butcher them, or take credit for them. We have all hung on tightly to our way of being, of doing, that we have always had out of fear that we won’t achieve our desired result if we don’t. There’s a reason that “if you want something done right, do it yourself” is so common of an anthem.
So there I had sat. The rush of writing had begun to bide, and fear had started to set in. The next step was going to have to be to...show it to someone. To show it to someone preferably in the industry. Yikes on bikes. All of those fear-based thoughts flooded my egoic mind: What if they hate it? What if they steal the idea? What if I blow my only shot...and then my mulligan as well? What if this was to be the death of my screenwriting career before it had even begun? Maybe I should’ve just stuck to my—albeit neophyte—guns and raised the money to shoot it myself, so I didn’t ever have to show it anyone until they were already hired…Then, there it was:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This proverbial truth had resonated instantly, in the forefront of my mind, to the core of my soul, from the deep recesses of my heart. I wasn’t at all ready to make a film on my own, to take those steps alone, I needed help.
And yes, there was a chance that my worst fears would happen, but I knew from having written my first book that until you have had a piece of writing dear to you redlined to high-hell, you cannot call yourself a professional writer. Until you have had a sentence, a paragraph, an entire chapter lopped off like an appendage, and you feel the painful amputation of your idea, your spirit-on-paper, you cannot yet call yourself a professional writer. But guess what? Acknowledging then surrendering to the fact that we cannot get to the incredible apex of each of our desires without asking for help, without raising our hands despite our fear, can open us up to better, more comprehensive, more intimate, brilliant, prismatic, multi-faceted ways of doing things that can only come through a vehicle of collaboration. In other words…we learn by asking for help. We discover new things through those that know more, that think differently, that approach the same thing from a totally different vantage point.
We were not meant to go through this life experience alone. period. And that means when you feel alone in your circumstance, when you feel lonely in a room full of people, when you feel afraid to be vulnerable, to share your idea, your thoughts, your voice…take a chance. Raise your hand and ask for help. We are all in this life experience together. We all have fears and insecurities and doubts and disasters and shame and the desire to succeed. We are all human.
Put your fear aside. Use that fear for its integral purpose; allow it to help you change. Change your circumstance, your patterned thoughts, your belief structure. Change your creativity, your job, your relationship. Use it to guide you into the quintessential human life experience—to foster relationships, to cultivate intimacy. Allow it to guide you into the best, most special, sacred aspect of being human; allow it to guide you onto the leading edge of creation.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
We were not meant to do everything alone. And if we can acknowledge our fear and communicate with our ego so that we can let go of our white-knuckled grip on how we have “always done it” and done it “right,” we just may invite our minds to be blown, our hearts to be expanded, our spirit to evolve…
And ourselves to go further…
And after an intense—and collaborative—editing process with an incredible and well-established producer in the industry, my screenplay has since turned into a television series that has begun to be packaged and pitched…I could not be more appreciative for the...help.
Polo REO Tate was born in Lansing, Michigan, where her family has deep ties to the community. Her Great Great Grandfather was Ransom Eli Olds (R.E. Olds), a pioneer and prolific inventor most notably responsible for inventing the first internal combustion automobile—the Oldsmobile. Growing up, [...]