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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: 

Dch, I haven’t sold a script yet and I see all these screenwriters selling.  How do I keep from spiraling down into a deep depression and keep writing?


This week's answer: 

Self Writing

Gay, I appreciate you writing to me.  Are you sure about not wanting to spiral down into a deep depression?  I kind of like downward spiraling.  At least it saves on gas.  And deep depressions aren’t all that bad.  If you like quicksand.  Which, come to think of it, I like -- unless I'm in it, and then I don't.  Maybe it's because, if you're in quicksand, the more you struggle, the deeper you go.  It sort of sounds like a  screenwriting career that's gone bad, doesn't it?

The Chinese (they never seem to look very depressed) have a saying:  “Lengthen your own line.”  That doesn’t mean make your dialogue longer.  At least, I don’t think that’s what the Chinese were referring to.  Unless... the saying came from a wise old Chinese screenwriter sage.  If that’s the case, then my entire worldview has just drastically changed.  But, assuming that my initial interpretation is correct, “lengthen your own line” means only compare yourself to yourself.  (Unless your self doesn’t like being compared to and has some kind of phobia about it.  In that case, I’d have a good talk with yourself and get things straightened out.  Self therapy is supposed to be good for that.)

But, assuming your self is okay with being compared with, then the idea works quite well.  A dire mistake is made (dire for your confidence, your career, and whatever else is affected by the mistake) when a screenwriter compares himself to another screenwriter.  Instead of performing that futile exercise, it’s best to channel that same energy into monitoring your own progression.  Look for your own progression, not others.  Did you write a screenplay?  Did you write a second one?  Do you think the second one is better than the first?  Is your writing getting better?  Are you already so tired of these questions that you want to stop reading this and get back to doing anything else, which includes working on your screenwriting?  

Seek where YOU have gotten better, not someone else who could have gotten and accomplished “better.”  Have you taken steps to get your screenplay(s) read by professionals?  Have you taken more and more of these steps?  Chart your progression.  If there hasn’t been enough progress, you’ll see it and, if your desire is strong enough to succeed as a screenwriter, noting the lack of progress will compel you to do what it takes to reverse that momentum or overcome any possible inertia and move forward in your career.

Truly, if you’re willing to look even more deeply into your urge to compare yourself with others, you may very well find that you do so as a type of distraction, creating a way to avoid being in the center of yourself, willing to embrace the discomfort regarding your thoughts about where you are on your path.  But, if you are willing to do just that, stay present with yourself, you may find out something extremely beneficial and quite wonderful about yourself.

That is if your self is willing to let you stay present with it.  Sometimes it just wants to watch a good movie.

Hey!  You could write one of those for your self!


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