Black Creators – Struggles with Writing and Anxiety

Becoming a successful artist can be a long and daunting road that is not for the faint of heart. Add being a person of color and that task can be dang near impossible. However, if you have the drive, determination, and support from those around you, you can make anything happen.

I say this motivational speech because I am wowed by the industry people I have met on my own path to becoming a writer. While the skills and difficulties are in a different league, game recognizes game. That’s why when my friend Conrad Haynes (who I met at the Scriptwriters Network Friday Night Social event some years ago) told me about his latest project, I knew I had to help share it with the world.

Conrad Haynes is a writer/actor that has been working in the industry for over 5 years. His new short film that he wrote and stars in called ‘Headspace’ has been featured in the LA Underground Film Festival, the Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition, and the HollyShorts Monthly Screening. The film follows Alex, an aspiring artist who struggles to overcome his anxiety on the night before a life changing interview.

Headspace – A Short Film about Anxiety from Silverrad on Vimeo.

As a black creator myself, I know the overwhelming sense of failure and Imposter Syndrome that can come when you are rejected in an industry that consistently ignores you. When I asked Haynes if he thinks that being a black creator can exacerbate anxiety, he said:

Yes, and I believe this is further perpetuated by the fact that discussions on mental health and anxiety have a tendency to be overlooked, especially within the black community. As a black creative, you can feel an overwhelming amount of pressure and responsibility to only create work that advances the black community. Since we represent such a small percentage of the overall entertainment industry, there can exist a pull to a.) create pieces that positively address the black community as a whole or b.) create pieces that perpetuate the narrative of blacks in media. Finding the right mix that you enjoy and that positively affects and represents a disenfranchised community can be difficult, for sure.

By using his own anxiety fueled nightmares as inspiration, Haynes was able to create a film that embodies not just his personal journey, but the journey of many black creatives. While I understand the importance of creating work that helps “advance” our community, I think we also deserve films that don’t focus solely on our issues. It’s a balance, as with everything in life. For every film about slavery, we should have a RomCom or space adventure.

If we focus only on the boundaries and pressure we put on ourselves, in our creative work as well as in everyday life, it’s enough to make even the most mentally healthy person feel overwhelmed. Adding in outside influences and white supremacy, making your way into the industry and feeling accomplished can make you feel like giving up. Being an actor as well as a writer, Haynes has met even more barriers:

I can’t begin to tell you how many ‘thug’ and ‘smiling black best friend’ roles I’ve been out for in the past few years. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to audition and create, but I would love to go out for roles that allow me to experience a full range of emotions free of the stereotypes and flat-perceptions.

Having limited roles is one of the reasons why Haynes began his dive into writing himself roles that he knew would be varied, a common path many black creatives are now taking. Too many times and for most of history, others have told our stories and while some did an okay job, most reduced us to stereotypes. We are not a monolith and its important for not only us, but for those in other groups to be aware of that.

Sometimes the pressure to represent our entire community can create stress and anxiety. One way to help combat this is to collaborate. If we work together, it helps to take the pressure off of one person while also bringing in new ideas or perspectives.Haynes suggests to “go to meetups, go to conventions, hit up old classmates.” On Headspace for instance, “everyone from ZFT, our music producer, and Mike from Kymatic Media, was just a friend that I reached out to about collaborating.”

It’s not only important to continue creating and collaborating. A close social network can do wonders if you are still struggling, but sometimes more needs to be done. If you need help with anxiety whether its social anxiety or you’re having panic attacks, these organizations have great resources to help.

You can find links to more of Haynes work here.