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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions (often with a humorous eye) about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

I'm doing really well writing, Dch, but I always have this fear in the back of my head that, the next time I write a screenplay, there won't be any ideas and I'll never write another good one again.  Do you know what I mean?  And can you help me?

Elfie


This week's answer: 

A Hundred Thousand Dollars For Your Thoughts

Elfie, I really appreciate your question and your courageous candor about your fear in the back of your head.  I do know what you mean.  Except I think my fear is more in the side of my head, just above my ears, or maybe on the other side of my ears in my head.  Yes, that's where my fear is.  Or... was that just a childhood trauma of having to wear earmuffs to school and dreading how weird I looked and how others would laugh at me (which they did).  And I remember that steel band would press my head to the point of hurting it.  And that was the top of my head, so maybe my fear is actually at the TOP of my head.  So, yes, I do know what you mean except for the difference in writers' heads' fear locations.  (Oh, you wrote more...)

You're not alone, Elfie (are you French, Elfie?  And is there another tower in Paris named after you?) when it comes to worrying that your originality, creativity, all around screenwriting pizzazz, the je ne sais quoi will suddenly forsake you,  speaking in your idiom -- that is if you're French.  And if you're not, it's still quite cool to drop in a foreign phrase from time to time to appear worldly -- even though I've never been to France because my parents couldn't afford to send me as a visiting student -- because they just had to spend their money on weird "necessary" stuff like earmuffs!  I believe many artists and people in creative fields have the same doubts and concerns.  I've entertained similar thoughts, too.  Thoughts like:  I don't know if I can come up with a good third act twist.  And:  I don't know if I can come up with a third act.  And:  What's a third act?  Things like that.  Or a more encompassing yet subtler one like:

AHHHH, I'll never write again!

And:

EVER!!!!!!

But we mustn't buy into these thoughts, and we must move past them, for they are illusions.  My daughter.  (Sorry.  I've seen too many Oriental films lately.  Cherished one.  Sorry again.)  But these kind of "Who do I am to think I can write another good screenplay?" thoughts are not helpful in the least.  Don't entertain them.  Don't even invite them to your party.  In fact, don't have a party because they might find out and crash it.  And then you'll have to throw them out or call the Thought Police (not the ones from "1984") and your party will be ruined, when all along you shouldn't have had it and been working on your screenplay.

Instead, counter those self-depreciating and confidence-shrinking beliefs with powerful and positive and confidence-building ones.  You answer your own depressing thoughts with uplifting ones.  It's a great technique that I use all the time.  Here's an example:

Depressing thought:  I can't write another screenplay.

Countering Uplifting thought:  Okay, then I'll write two more.

Depressing thought:  Two?!  That'll take me a year and I might be dead by then.

Countering Uplifting thought:  So what if I die?  At least I wrote two more great screenplays.

Depressing thought:  Yeah, so what?  It takes so long to sell them and get the movie made that I'll be long dead before I ever get paid.

Uplifting thought:  Well, at least... You know... that is depressing.

I'm not sure the above exercise is the best example of the technique.  But what I'm trying to get across to you is that those negative thoughts that are trying to stop or have succeeded in stopping you from writing your next screenplay are yours and nobody else's (unless there's somebody really small that sits on your shoulder and actually says negative things like this in your ear.  And if that is true, you're probably going to want to do one of two things:  either remove that small creature on your shoulder that is talking negatively in one ear, or get another small creature that has angel wings and that speaks positive "you can do it" words in the other.)  

Although... you might look a little weird like that at pitch meetings, which might hinder the sale.  Maybe you should just start writing again.  

Hey, there's a thought.

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