How to survive the emotional highs and lows of your screenwriting journey…

It always happens toward the end of writing a new script.  It’s a steamroller downhill toward the last scene and a powerful feeling of accomplishment rises up as it’s been my privilege to tell another story to the world.  My characters guide me through, the ending comes and it’s over — FADE OUT — THE END.  We must part ways until actors inhabit the characters and a director brings his or her vision. Well, first someone with money invests in the project, they hire the director… blah, blah, blah.  You know the drill.

At least we hope and pray it gets to that level of being produced or even into development.

The creative high gets me through and it’s sad to bid farewell to these characters, the ones I’ve known so intimately for the past 100 pages.  Once I finish a script, the very next day I print it out, go to a coffee shop with a pen and start the polish.  I agonize over every word, punctuation, sentence, and line of dialogue… over again and again through the first pass.  I look for typos and those pesky “widow words.”

My creative high is still keeping me going as I read my script and discover it’s usually pretty good.  Many times, I’m shocked at how good for a first draft and then figure ways to make it better.  Screenwriting is rewriting and don’t you forget it!

This of course is before the producers receive the draft and make their notes: “I had a few ideas on the plane back from Cannes.  Could you make it funnier?” “Uh, you told me to write a drama.” “Okay, but somebody has to die in the story.”  “Die?”  “Yeah, these guys are really old and it feels like somebody should die.”  “Well, it’s not that kind of movie.  If somebody died it would change the entire dynamic of the relationships at the end.” “Okay, how about a serious illness?”  “Does he recover?”  “Yeah.”  “I can do an illness.”

Did I just dream that?  No, sadly enough this conversation actually happened with a producer. It’s wasn’t funny at the time in his office either.

Once I turn in the script, my creative high begins to crash and I notice myself coming down from the previous month of creative energy and focus to a scary silence. My noisy mind gets louder and I need to fill it with stories and writing. I need my next project or I need to go out for a run and do some road work. Something. Even writing a new blog article helps. I need my writing fix to keep my creative fires burning.

I really notice the void when I’m not writing. In some ways writing for me is like a drug.  The creative highs are addictive and I love watching the story unfold in my mind as if it was already a movie. I need to tell these stories and the way to release them is through writing. If I don’t immediately jump onto a new project, I find myself needing to do something creative so I’ll draw or sketch. I’ll catch up on movies or TV shows that I’ve always wanted to see and study, I’ll listen to new music or go to an art exhibit to keep my creative mind fresh.

Writers need to recharge their batteries. Don’t have too much down time either.  If you’re like me, I will quickly begin circling an idea as I need the creative juices to flow.  It’s my life’s blood and I never feel as good as when I’m writing a new project.  If you are watching a film, a play, or enjoying a painting, you are like an athlete who keeps up their training. You’ll be ready to jump back in the game with your skills at their highest levels.

Complete your script, take a few days off, and then get back to writing — something.  Your journal, a blog post, a Tweet, something.  Lather, rinse and repeat.

So, find a way to stay upbeat if you experience the creative highs and lows, and always get back to writing sooner than later.  You’ll thank yourself—and you’ll be on your way to finishing your next magnum opus.

Keep filling your blank pages on your road to screenwriting success.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2020 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE. All rights reserved. No portion of this article can be republished without written permission.

Need help navigating Hollywood’s trenches as you pursue your screenwriting career? Check out my book on Amazon with 36 five star reviews… click on the book cover for the link to Amazon.

“I have learned, on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy.  Two days and I am in tremor.  Three and I suspect lunacy.  Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow.  An hour’s writing is tonic.  I’m on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.”  ~ Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing.

“The professional prepares mentally to absorb blows and to deliver them.  His aim is to take what the day gives him.  He is prepared to be prudent and prepared to be reckless, to take a beating when he has to, and to go for the throat when he can.  He understands the field alters every day.  His goal is not victory (success will come by itself when it wants to) but to handle himself, his insides, as sturdily as he can.“—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

Happy 8th anniversary to MY BLANK PAGE!

eight year anniversaryI can’t believe it’s December again and my eight-year anniversary for my blog. Time sure flies as we’re busy filling our blank pages, right? Yes, it’s my EIGHTH ANNIVERSARY here and it’s been another solid year of readership of the blog. I want to thank you all my loyal readers for a fantastic eight years on the net. I hope my over 200 articles helped with your survival in the trenches of Hollywood as a working screenwriter. As you know, screenwriting is a long haul journey to reach any level of success, but when you know other writers are out here slugging away, fighting the good fight, and being successful, it can give you hope and strength to fill yet another blank page as you follow your dreams.

I hope 2018 has been a productive year on your screenwriting journey. I’ve been blessed keeping busy with two screenwriting assignment jobs that were produced — one just premiered on TV and the second film is in post production and will be released early next year. I’m about to start another

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I  also presented my new seminar “Staying in the Game: Surviving as a Working Screenwriter in Hollywood” to a group of  creatives in North Hollywood and the complete video is now online. Click on the photo at the left for the link to the Film Courage YouTube channel.

 

 

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If that wasn’t enough, I’ve been busy promoting my book, A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success, now available on Amazon with 19 five-star reviews. The book has been a long haul journey to write and shares my twenty years of experiences in Hollywood’s trenches with advice about forging your own career with my tips, tricks and tactics to say in the game. Makes a great holiday gift too so put in your order early!

If you haven’t yet, check out my screenwriting YOUTUBE CHANNEL where I post weekly script videos with my tips, tricks and tactics to help you survive in Hollywood’s trenches. I have thirty-five videos uploaded to help with your screenwriting survival in the trenches. And as you complete your latest magnum opus, if you find yourself in need of professional screenplay consultation, check out my screenplay consultation services. I’m offering a holiday discount of $25 until December 31st. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay.

salvador-dali-by-willy-rizzo-1As the year ends, take some time to reflect on your experiences — celebrate your successes, analyze your mistakes and failures, and adapt to find new strategies that can move you and your projects forward down the paying field. Always set realistic goals and do whatever you need to go after them with passion. Remember, it’s later than you think, and life passes quickly while you attempt great things with your screenwriting career.

My sincere thanks for your support of this blog. Remember to always respect the craft, keep the faith, work from a solid outline with a passion for the work and not seeking fame and fortune, and remember—if you stop writing, you’re guaranteed to never have a shot at any success.

See you on Twitter/Periscope and the big and small screen.

All my best screenwriting wishes for 2019.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE blog.

“… a basic “must” for every writer: A simple solitude—physical & mental.”—Rod Serling

“Being an artist means not having to avert one’s eyes.”—Akira Kurosawa

“Hollywood is Hollywood. There’s nothing you can say about it that isn’t true, good or bad. And if you get into it, you have no right to be bitter—you’re the one who sat down, and joined the game.” —Orson Welles

Stephen King with advice from his old newspaper editor John Gould: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

“Don’t think of it as art, think of it as work.”—Paddy Chayefsky

Hemingway said it best, I still believe, though, that it is very bad for a writer to talk about how he writes. He writes to be read by the eye and no explanations or dissertations should be necessary. You can be sure that there is much more there than will be read at any first reading and having made this it is not the writer’s province to explain it or to run guided tours through the more difficult country of his work.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”—Pablo Picasso

“I never feel the need to discuss my work with anyone. No, I am too busy writing it. It has got to please me and if it does I don’t need to talk about it. If it doesn’t please me, talking about it won’t improve it, since the only thing to improve it is to work on it some more. I am not a literary man but only a writer. I don’t get any pleasure from talking shop.”—William Faulkner