Last year, I wrote an article titled Have a dream? Good. Now Dream Bigger. It was an account of my journey in life, and how failures or setbacks, don’t have to be permanent. The article gained a lot of exposure, and even brought into my life, my current agent/ agency, and a myriad of career opportunities. However, since writing that article many things have changed, so I felt it would be good rewrite the article, and maybe inspire a few other people out there. Here goes…
In early 2014, life was good. I had finally moved away from the cool, but — not what I really wanted — career of fight choreography. I was pursuing my life-long passion of writing. I had, after tons of networking, and hundreds of rejection letters, managed to secure a book deal with Harper Collins. I was walking down the author route, and I liked it! It felt good to be writing as a career. I had turned my back upon the TV/ Film industry, and was now fully embracing my God-given talent of writing. I felt healthy, strong, confident, and life just felt — for want of a better word — ‘Right.’
Then one day, something happened — I woke up with a headache.
Me being me, I ignored the headache and set about my daily business. I figured if it persisted or got worse, I would eventually take an aspirin, and all would be well. The fact that I hardly ever suffered from headaches, was something I overlooked – as I continued on, with my busy day.
As the day progressed, the headache not only persisted, but worsened. I took some painkillers, but still the pain remained. It wasn’t until later in the day when I passed-out, and woke up in hospital, that I found out that I had suffered an aneurism. And so began, what would be some of the worst months of my life.
During the next few months, I had to attend the hospital on a weekly basis, have my brain scanned regularly, and undergo a battery of tests. My physician was deeply concerned because the aneurism was located in a place where surgery would be too risky. I also had suffered a few ‘minor’ bleeds during that time; which also put me in hospital. During this time I received zero compassion from my employers, and was dropped — unceremoniously — by Harper Collins, due to the fact that I missed one (yes, ONE) deadline, due to having an aneurism.
As my medical bills sucked me financially dry, and my career became a distant memory; to say I felt ‘lost,’ would be an understatement. I had had so much, and now I had so little. I was even advised by my physician to prepare a will, to “get my affairs in order” and that effectively I could suffer a rupture and die, at any time. I truly felt like the rug of life was being dragged out from under my feet. I found keeping up with things was not just hard, but also an impossibility.
If any of you have read the Bible or are familiar with the story of Job; you may have an understanding of what I was feeling. In-fact, during this time, the story of Job kept popping-up in my head, repeatedly. But I was angry, so I ignored it, repeatedly. I was angry at my life. My situation. The losses I had suffered in the past (the passing of my fiancée and unborn child), the injustices I had to endure (bad childhood), and now I was angry, that while only in my thirties, I faced the very apparent prospect of death.
This anger persisted within me throughout this time. Causing me to feel bitter.
I’m not a religious man, I’m more spiritual. But the cornerstone of my life, has always been my faith in God; a faith that has seen me through times that may have otherwise broken me. But even now, in a time when I should have turned to God, I strayed — blinded by the list of injustices that covered my mind.
This path of negativity continued until one fateful day. A day when I had hit the rock bottom of my life. A day when I was sitting alone in a McDonald’s car-park in the UK. It was perhaps 11pm, or around that time. I sat there sipping a banana milkshake and, for anyone that may have set eyes upon me that day — had a look of emptiness in my eyes. I was a torn man. Everything from my finances, career, to health; all had been ripped out of my life, like discarded pages; pages from the book that is known as my life. Worse still, I had lost my faith. I was an empty shell. I wanted to pray, to talk to my Creator, at least part of me did. The other part taunted me, urging me not to do so; while reciting the injustices that I had suffered.
If anything can hurt us in life, it is being conflicted. As it is written ‘A man cannot serve two masters’, I knew it to be true, as it was how I was currently living. My ego was at odds with my Creator; which was not exactly a battle that was well chosen.
I recall sitting there, tears rolling down my face. Tears that were not of sadness, as much as they were pity. Not pity for another soul, but for mine. “Is this it,” I thought to myself “is this how I will leave this world? Not only without leaving my mark, but being robbed of my faith? A casualty to my own life?”
I had always been strong. I had always needed to be. My strength and faith, were the vehicles that had helped me surpass my somewhat poor start in life; allowing me to progressively move forward. But now, I was devoid of both of these things.
I took a deep sigh as I let go of the anger and ego, and prayed. “If, this is what you want…ok, I’ll accept it. I’m scared, but I won’t fight you anymore. I’m going to let go. Amen.”
I apologize to those reading this, those that may have been expecting some grandiose, elegantly crafted prayer; because in truth, I didn’t have one, not on that night anyway. All I had in that moment was my honesty.
Personally, I’ve always thought that prayers should come from the heart, rather than the mind. After-all, isn’t the heart, the greatest conduit of expression?
So I prayed — that simple prayer.
Did the sky part with heavenly light? No.
Did I hear an angelic voice? No.
I just felt…at peace.
Maybe it was because I had stopped fighting my situation, or maybe it was because I had stopped being angry with God; most likely — it was both.
What happened the next day? Nothing.
Seriously, nothing happened.
In-fact, I continued writing out my will, and had it legally filed that day.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to die, not by a long shot. But, I just kept thinking about the prayer/ promise (everything we say to God through prayer is a promise), and I just let things be.
Nothing special happened that day, nor did anything happen for the rest of the week.
A few weeks passed, and I had an MRI scan scheduled. I went along, had the scan, and then was asked to not go home. “I guess this is it,” I whispered in my mind “this is the part where they tell me things have gotten worse.” I then corrected my thought pattern, almost chastising myself as I remembered what I had promised to God. I then reassured myself “It’s ok…It is ok.” I’m not sure how many times I repeated this ‘ok,’ mantra to myself? But, I do know it was long enough for my physician to return and inform me that they needed to run a few more tests. When I asked the reason, I was just told that he would go through everything with me after the tests. So, being a good lab rat… ahem… patient, I went through all the tests, all the while still in the dark as to what exactly was transpiring in my brain.
After three hours worth of tests, my physician came into the room, and said “Mr. Carter,” while staring at his chart, “the aneurism seems to have shrunk,” he looked at me “it’s has done so… considerably.”
I think I asked him to repeat that information another two — maybe three — times, before I could accept it. In-fact, I recall being on a bit of an ‘emotional high’ for the rest of that day.
The aneurism continued to shrink over the coming weeks, and soon disappeared. You read that correctly, it Disappeared. Something that my doc truly struggled to explain, as in his words it was “Unheard of,” especially in such a “severe case,” as mine.
The whole experience gave me a new appreciation for life. Even saying that, seems like the biggest understatement I’ve ever made! “I now LOVE life!” might me a more accurate choice of words.
I also learned something, something so vital that I hope this one lesson hits home as you read this; Our fears, our ego, and all the negativity that we allow into our lives — are the products of our own choices.
We don’t realize how we let our fears influence our choices. How our fears pull us away from God, and the abundance of talent that resides within us.
After I had let go of my own fear of death — willing to go there if that was what had to happen — I started to live more. I started to do crazy things like dreaming a little bigger, and believing, when there was ‘logically’ no reason to believe.
A great example of this can be seen in how I approached life from that point onward. Fresh from recovering from an aneurism, with exactly only £60 left in my bank account, after medical bills etc. After being fired from Harper Collins where I had technically been chewed-up, and spit-out by the literary world; my career seemed over before it had even begun.
My most obvious — safest choice — would have been to get a little 9 to 5 job, give up on writing and my dreams, and to be realistic. After-all, conventional wisdom would have dictated that I’d had my shot in life, and missed. Which meant I should climb back into cubicle nation, and do whats considered as ‘normal.’
So what did I actually decide to do? I decided to go back to the TV/ Film industry.
With only a few credits for fight choreography and stage acting; I tried to get back into the industry.
But, I didn’t want to return to the industry as a fight choreographer, which was the logical choice. Nope, I wanted to be a screenwriter!
Why a screenwriter? Well because
a) I love every aspect, nuance, and inner working of TV/ Film (always have)
b) I’m a natural writer.
I had tried screenwriting before (it was always my original passion, but one I had strayed from), but to no avail. That is why in the past, I moved toward other avenues like fight choreography.
In the US machine called Hollywood (one that I’d always dreamt of working in), in an industry that is flooded with wannabe actors, directors, and screenwriters; who would want to hire an unknown writer from the UK, that had zero writing credits?
The logical answer to the question would be “Nobody.”
After-all there is a system, a hierarchy in place; whereby you must start from the bottom, and eventually — if you’re lucky — break into the industry.
For someone in their thirties — regardless of talent — to want to suddenly enter this field, would be considered as a ridiculous notion by most. In fact “Ridiculous,” was the general consensus according to the myriad of ‘professionals,’ that I consulted on this matter.
Thing is, after facing death, and experiencing the miracle of being cured of an aneurism, you start to not listen to the naysayers as much.
So what did I do? I decided to ignore all the ‘experts’ and I approached a studio head on (via a very creative email strategy), and pitched an idea that I had for a TV series.
A week later, the studio got in touch — one thing let to another — and then I was writing a script for FX. Which, if I do say so myself, was “AWESOME!”
You see, if I had listened to
1. My fears (having no screenwriting credits)
2. The naysayers (agents, directors, producers, film makers, a few TV writers)
I would never have even tried emailing the studio directly. In-fact, ask anyone in the industry about this tactic, and you’ll be told how ‘stupid’ an idea that is (once they stop laughing at you).
So there I was, now working with FX on an idea that I had created. Life was good again. I was on track. That is until, in the last quarter of 2014, when they pulled out from the project.
However, by this point in time, I had built up so much internal momentum, that I wasn’t deterred by their actions. In hindsight, I didn’t even think I asked why they pulled out of the deal. I simply took my project to other studios (using the same tactic I used with the FX) and I eventually ended up with my current studio, AMC.
That was 2014, and now its 2015. I’ve completed the script, and things are progressing smoothly with AMC (who are great to work for). I’m even becoming known in certain important writing circles, and invited to ceremonies (one of which, is to the prestigious Final Draft awards). I also enjoy perfect health, and I even have the love of a good woman too.
So why am I telling you all this? Is it to show off? Or pat myself on the back? No.
I’m sharing all this in case there is someone out there that has a dream, but life and circumstance, have trampled their spirit. I’m sharing my story in case you, or someone you know, is about to quit on their dreams or passions. I’m sharing this story in the simple hope that I might give some much needed inspiration to someone that might need it.
What it comes down to; what it TRULY comes down to, is taking ACTION.
If you have a dream, but you don’t act upon it — it will never become a reality.
I’m not saying you have to have a near-death experience to succeed; I’m saying why wait for one, just so you can justify living a life of passion?
Instead, be brave, and don’t be afraid of failing.
It comes down to deciding who you are, and doing whatever it takes to stay true to that image.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take a long time to change your life; it really only takes just one second; which is the same amount of time that it takes to make a decision.
To succeed in life, you must
1. DECIDE what you want to do, then DO it.
2. Don’t stop, don’t relent.
3. Just keep moving forward.
4. Learn whatever you have to learn along the way, to become the best.
Once you start to take action toward a dream, it ceases to be a dream. It instead becomes a living, breathing, reality that you live.
And if you ever get stuck, and lose your way (you most likely will, and its ok if it happens), there are only two places you need look — Up to God, and inside your own heart. Those are the only places where your dreams will always be honored and respected.
I truly hope that by sharing my experience here, I have inspired you to follow your dreams!