It's New Year's Eve, 1988. I'm traveling alone off the coast of Belize. After spending the day snorkeling, I've come down with a terrible infection. Racked with chills, barely coherent, I stumble across town to rouse the lone nurse from her holiday dinner. Grudgingly, she gives me some antibiotics, and I take to bed.

That night was perhaps the most important of my life. Twisted up in the sheets, raging with fever, I thought I was going to die. In those supposed last moments, I considered my life with deathbed candor. Having failed to make it as a Hollywood screenwriter after almost a decade of trying, I'd privately become convinced that my lack of success was well deserved. I believed that, deep inside, there was something wrong with me—a fatal flaw, an indefinable shortcoming.

Whenever that belief had arisen before, I'd fought it with all the resistance I could summon. Now, instead, I dove straight into wave after wave of enveloping hopelessness. It was excruciating, but there was also great relief in giving up the struggle. Maybe it was the semidelirium that finally melted my defenses—I'll never know. But when dawn broke and I was still breathing, the darkness inside me was lighter, too.

In the months that followed, I enjoyed my first hot streak with the studios. Within a couple of years, I had written, produced, and directed an award-winning film. It wasn't newfound discipline that had led to my turnaround. Nor was it a burst of creativity or a stroke of luck. What changed everything was my willingness to feel how hopeless I'd been. When I was finally ready to reclaim the part of me that was so hurting and broken-down, healing began. Out of that healing came ease, a new and natural sense of flow. And from that flow, in short order, came the realization of my dream.


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