The constant rejection, scrutiny, and failure the average writers face can easily turn them into self-loathing perfectionists. If you include the cost of entering contests, paying for coverage, and dozens of rewrites, it sometimes adds insult to injury.
No one said screenwriting would be a walk in the park, but we shouldn't make the journey harder than it should be by belittling, shaming, and forcing unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Here are six ways you can become a happier writer by practicing a little self-compassion.
When I first started writing, it was a blast. I knew my work wasn't perfect, but I was determined to learn and improve. After receiving soul-crushing criticism, I went from a happy writer chucking out ten pages a day to terrified of a blank page.
Finishing a draft was like rocket science because now I feared not being perfect and loathed myself for making past mistakes. Unfortunately for me, I had to realize the first draft is going to suck. It's supposed to suck because you need to give yourself a foundation to work with.
In the first draft, it's okay to write awkward dialogue, adverbs, or scenes that might not be in the final draft; the first draft is supposed to be a mess. It's called a vomit draft for a reason.
Every screenplay has strengths and weaknesses. If you're bad at writing dialogue, maybe your descriptions are great, or perhaps your structure isn't the best, but you have fantastic characters with vivid voices.
Look at the feedback on your last script. Even if the marks are low, you probably have at least one area you did good in. It's important to know your weaknesses, so you can improve, but reminding yourself that you did something right will make you feel better about yourself.
When I used to read over my old screenplays, I'd cringe and tell myself how awful this is.. No wonder you scored so low; this is garbage. It's obvious you don't have any talent; what were you thinking?
After reading some blogs on self-love and healing, I noticed I'm insanely harsh on myself, and I'd never say these things to someone else if they wrote my story. Sometimes we need to take a step back and ask ourselves, Am I being mean to myself?
If I was giving feedback to someone else who wrote the same script, would I tell them what I'm saying to myself during the rewrite process? Remember, being mean to yourself subconsciously programs your brain to procrastinate and discourages you from writing altogether.
Screenwriting is one of the most competitive, brutal, and soul-sucking careers in writing you could ever have. A great way to avoid feeling like a failure is to celebrate your milestones. It can be small, like writing five pages a day or huge, like winning a contest or getting signed. You could also compare your old works to your new work so you can see how much you've improved over the years.
Sometimes I'll browse Reddit and read amazing success stories of writers who made it in or accomplished something major. I applaud them for their successes, but I can't help but compare myself to them, or I'd read a fantastic screenplay and feel terrible about my work. It was a painful cycle, so I just stopped reading them. Once I understood writing is a journey and stopped trying to compete with others, it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
We all look up to famous writers such as Quentin Tarantino, Alfonso Cuarón, and James Cameron. Some writers even become obsessed with them, try to copy their style and get frustrated when they can't. Every writer has their voice, and the more you try to sound or be like someone else, the more you'll lose your individuality.
Being an aspiring writer is tough; so many people give up after years of rejection, but if you can appreciate your small milestones and be kind to yourself, whatever or not you're successful, you'll at least be happy.
Have you ever thought about giving up on writing or compared yourself to someone who just seemed to have it all?
Tell us in the comment section below!
I'm a aspiring screenwriter and very passionate about the craft of writing. If you're interested in reading some of what I have, message me. :)
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