Screenwriting and the Art of Optimism

If you feel like having your hopes dashed and your dreams pooh-poohed, there are plenty of avenues to do that in the world of screenwriting.  Upon entering the Wide World of RSS Feeds, a dear friend and fellow aspiring screenwriter lamented at how overwhelming it all was.  There’s a wealth of information and opinion out there, and it’s easy to end up with this as the overall message: “You, Fledgling Screenwriter, are supposed to be doing Items A through ZZZ, and even if you’re doing every single one of those things, the odds of making it are positively Lilliputian.”

I’ve now made the first cut of two screenwriting competitions but failed to progress to the next round.  The BlueCat Screenwriting Competition announced their semi-finalists last night (the top 1 percent of 3200 entries down from the top 20 percent for quarterfinals), and I was not on their list.  Cue Existential Crisis.

I’m feeling better this morning than I was last night, and I’m feeling better now than I was when I got up.  By the end of the day, hopefully I’ll be back into Write the Next Thing Mode, which is good since I’m on the verge of finishing up my current work.  (Whilst jumping back into writing tonight, though, I may fill that last bit of emptiness in my heart where a semi-finalist placement would have resided with what some may call copious amounts of wine and maybe a bit of carrot cake, too.)

So, the question remains, if you still feel like you have to do this Thing Called Writing despite all the frustration and heartbreak and general down-in-the-dumpness that accompanies it, how do you stop yourself from sinking into a deep pit of melancholy and bitterness?  Well, here’s how I do it.

  • Surround yourself with positive people who know when to give you realism (whilst giving notes on your shitty-but-with-potential firstish drafts) and when to say, “Screw realism. You’re awesome, and you need to keep going because the world is in need of your brand of awesomeness.”
  • Allow yourself to take a sabbatical from the Blogs of Doom.  Most of the time, I can pick out the beneficial information from the dour tones, but sometimes it gets to be a little much.  And when that happens, it’s OK to step away from it for a bit.
  • Read or watch (or even do) something inspiring or escapist or heartwarming.  Sometimes life is overwhelming; there’s nothing wrong with hitting your own personal pause button and taking some time to do something purely enjoyable for a few hours.
  • Exercise. Honestly. Endorphins and all that. Additionally, I find any sort of kickboxing/taebo/kenpo workout coupled with visualization of naysayers does wonders.
  • Get out in the world.  Pick up a new hobby.  Go somewhere you’ve never been before.  Do something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t because you’ve been afraid or alone or didn’t know where to start.  Have an experience.
  • Keep writing.  Finish what you’re writing.  Start something new.  Take an excursion into a different medium.  But keep writing.  Keep generating ideas.  Be a shark.  Keep moving.

Those tactics usually do the trick for me.  Perhaps there is an end to my rope, and maybe one day I’ll reach it and give up the ghost.  But for the timebeing, it’s not in sight.  Onward and upward, as they say.

(“And remember, keep your powder dry.”)

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6 thoughts on “Screenwriting and the Art of Optimism

  1. As mired as I am in realism and soul-crushing pessimism about most things, I do try to remain somewhat optimistic about the whole writing thing. I avoid anything that talks about “the death of print” or “how impossible it is to find an agent and get published.” I know it ain’t easy, no reason to torture myself.

    That’s how I try to “keep my powder dry.”

    • It’s not easy, but I don’t think it’s quite that dire either. Culture ebbs and flows. Plus I think you and I might be able to keep the entire print industry afloat ourselves based on our discussions about Borders/Amazon shopping sprees! 🙂

  2. I’ve always held fast to the idea that if you aren’t writing for yourself and because you must, you are writing for the wrong reason. Perhaps what I have is a mental illness in lieu of true brilliance. At any rate, being in that sort of crowd leaves you flayed open to acidic comments and exclusions. You can’t let that get you down. You take it as queue to keep trying or get better. Survival is everything. Best of luck. – Carrie

    • I think you and I must share the same mental illness. I get really neurotic if I go more than a couple of days without writing. And I’m already neurotic enough as it is. 😉 So stopping altogether isn’t really an option for me if I want to stay (at least mostly) sane.

  3. I have heard that bubble baths and wine do the trick! Even if it is just for ten minutes. Oh so refreshing!

    And you are right…. the world is in need of your brand of awesomeness.

    🙂

  4. I have to agree with Carrie–you have to do it for yourself! It would be nice if you could get stuff published and actually get paid for writing, but even if you don’t, would you give it up? If you don’t love what you’re doing, then no one else will either.

    So, as Coach Stewart used to tell me when things were looking down, keep your “dobber” up. I still don’t know what a “dobber” is, but it’s good advice.

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