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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 have a lot of stress in my life and really write a lot when I'm stressed.  Do you think that stress helps screenwriters write better?

Terence J.


This week's answer: 

Stress is not Your Friend

I think stress helps screenwrters be more stressed, and, when they are stressed and write, I'm sure their stress somehow shows up in their writing, but saying that that kind of "stressed writing" is better than writing that emanates from an unstressed writer does not seem to make a lot of sense.  It's not that being stressed doesn't help a writer understand that state and be able to write about it.  But being stressed and writing is not the way to go, at all.  Stress actually blocks creativity.  And nobody wants his or her creativity blocked.  That would be too stressful.  And that would block your creativity.  And on and on we go.

Here's an example of  stressed screenwriting.  See if you can tell when the screenwriter became stressed while writing this scene:

EXT. PASTORAL KNOLL

The flowers are colorful and majestic.  Emily traipses through the tulips, gathering berries as she hums to herself.  Everything is right with her world.  She notices a frolicking squirrel nearby.

                                               EMILY
                                Hello, little fury one.  How can I

             The whole Goddamn world's against me and I'm going to show them  all.  They'll see who they're dealing with.  Just let 'em try and put one over on me, the losers.  Why I'll...

                              make your day even more pleasant, Mister
                              Squirrel?

                 You think so, huh?!  Well... #^%$%$@ to all of you, lousy #^%$%$@!

And... scene.  Now, did you detect where the writer could have been coming from a less than serene place?

Stress is not your friend.  Serenity is.  And  producers who pay you six figures for your screenplays.  But you'll need to write excellent screenplays to be paid that much.  But don't let that stress you.  Just breathe deeply and say to yourself, "I am a serene screenwriter.  I am a serene screenwriter.  I am a screenwriter."  And on and you go.

DcH

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