“If you had total creative freedom, what would you do?,” a friend asked me last year.
Without hesitation, I replied, “I’d write a screenplay.”
My response was born from the depths of a childhood dream. I’ve always been fascinated with movies. Growing up, I’d spend hours at my grandfather’s old typewriter drafting one screenplay after another.
As the years rolled on, this childhood fantasy remained just that—a fantasy. But in recent years, I found myself collecting a small library of screenwriting books—each one unopened, taunting me from my bookshelf.
After my last book, Awaken Your Genius, was published, I had some time on my hands and decided to revisit this old dream.
Following the age-old advice to “read before you write,” I decided to read some screenplays. Silence of the Lambs was my first choice—a film I love and a screenplay celebrated by filmmakers I respect (I’m looking at you, Brit Marling).
Barely 10 pages into the script, I was hit . . . by a wave of boredom. The film that captivated me on screen was a screenplay that felt lifeless in my hands.
This was both surprising and disheartening.
Determined to push through, I decided to take a stab at writing a screenplay myself. But each session at my desk ended in writer’s block. When I sit down to write a book or a blog post, ideas and words come easily. But with a screenplay, the blank page remained just that—blank—after numerous attempts.
This experience taught me a vital lesson.
It’s one thing to daydream about the paths your life could take, to get lost in the “what ifs” and “could bes.” But it’s quite another to actually walk those paths. Dreams and reality may not align, and that’s part of the beauty of discovery.
The key is to start small. If you’re drawn to acting, take a beginner’s class. If there’s a novel brewing in your mind, try writing a short story first.
As for screenwriting, it turns out that it’s not for me—at least not right now. And that’s totally fine. I actually found relief in that realization. It’s one less “what if” haunting my thoughts, one less path I need to explore.
Confronting a “what if?” in your life can be liberating. It’s like closing a tab in the browser of your mind that’s been open for too long, draining resources without you even realizing it. This doesn’t diminish your potential; instead, it refines it, directing your energies towards paths that are more aligned.
If you’re standing at the crossroads of a long-held dream, try your “what if,” even if just to discover that it’s not for you. It’s only by giving yourself permission to step into the unknown and explore different paths that you discover what you truly want and don’t want.
I also learned that sometimes, the best way to appreciate an art form isn’t by dissecting or replicating it—but by simply experiencing it. When I watch a movie now, my attention is no longer distracted by an analysis of the screenplay. Instead, I surrender to the experience, feeling the simple joy of being a spectator swept away by the stories of another creator.
In the end, life isn’t marked just by the paths you take, but also by those you decide to admire from afar.