“Every morning when I wake up, I experience an exquisite joy — the joy of being Salvador Dali — and I ask myself in rapture, ‘What wonderful things is this Salvador Dali going to accomplish today?'” – Salvador Dali
Do you have a secret ambition?
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do — act, write, paint, play in a rock band — but failed to do because life got in the way? Some dream that felt too big or too remote or just plain too scary?
For me, it was making a movie. Ever since I saw “Mean Streets” (30 years ago), I’ve harbored the desire to do something like that myself.
When I was younger, I could let each year slip by — nothing done — and still hope that somehow my dream would come true. Maybe I’d bump into someone at a cocktail party. Maybe one of my short stories would be discovered. Maybe this – maybe that.
As the years passed, it became increasingly clear that my big chance wasn’t going to happen at all unless I took some positive action.
But even then — after I’d decided to start the ball rolling — nothing happened, because I was just too busy. Month after month, and then year after year, my moviemaking goal stayed right where I put it — on my yearly to-do list.
There are plenty of good reasons for ignoring your dreams. You’ve got to earn a living. You’ve got to take care of your family. You have to do the time-consuming tasks that make an ordinary life keep going.
Life has a way of sitting on that soft, sweet bud of an idea that once seemed so wonderful and gradually but steadily pressing out its vitality until what you have left feels like some hard, crusted pit of a foolish childhood fantasy.
That’s the way my moviemaking fancy felt to me. I’d never talk about it. I’d snigger at anyone else who admitted to having the same idea.
Then, last year, I turned 50. It was simply impossible to defer the dream any longer. I had to either do something about it or admit to myself I never would.
So I did something. I gave myself the audacious assignment of making a little documentary movie. And then, last summer, I went ahead with it. Ready. Fire. Aim.
I documented some of that experience in ”Message #183 (“How I Became a Movie Mogul – or the True Story of Rinky Dink Productions”). To make a difficult story simple, it was an unmitigated failure. I lost a bunch of money making something so awful I haven’t yet been able to look at it, let alone edit it.
A wiser man would have given up, but this year I vowed to do it right. It was going to be another documentary. One day, discussing the project with my partner, we came to the following conclusion: “If we are going to make another crappy movie,” he said, “why not make it a crappy feature-length film – since that’s our secret fantasy anyway?”
I believe I was drunk at the time. How else can I explain it? We agreed to do it, and here I am, eight months later, making a feature-length film.
It’s digital, not 35 mm. And it’s probably going to be terrible. But even “terrible” would be way better than what I did last summer. And what I will have accomplished — if I get it done — is to finish the thing I never thought I’d get started.
It is amazing to me that I’m doing this. More amazing when I gradually come to understand the enormity of the task.
But I do believe I’ll get it done — and before my 51st birthday — and that’s something that – well, you can imagine how that feels.
What is your secret fantasy?
[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]