Screenwriting : Depression and writing by Mark Heartford

Mark Heartford

Depression and writing

hi , well i thought i see what peoples thoughts are with trying to write a story and script when you have depression, as I keep trying to write an idea I have but I admit I get depressed because of various reasons , for example I watch films or high standard "A Beautiful boy" and its get stuff , great reviews then I look at my idea , what I write and I think I cant get to that level or my idea is not worth it, how do you get through this mental block

Monalisha Gantayat

Get into ten minutes of meditation practise every morning and night, there are several binaural beats exclusively designed to overcome self sabotaging and helps get out of competitive mindset. And when you are in process of writing please try avoid watching others works until you start flowing with the process of writing your piece. Every piece created by anyone is a master piece but the matter is to believe in your own convictions, it's a imbalanced brain programming that prevents us from feeling convinced with our creation, meditation helps big time for this. Please feel free to reach out if you need any further information. Regards

Jacob Buterbaugh

Learn from filmmakers and writers who inspire you, and it will come through in your work. I wouldn't worry too much about it. Don't overthink any of this stuff.

Willem Lodewijk Elzenga

Filmmaking is also a business. Money and others help you to make your movie great. For some it helps to write a businesscase that sets clear goals in what it is you want to achieve. If your more the creative type you have to believe strongly in your own talent. Write anyway and have other people read it, so you can understand were your talent is at. If this doesn't work, go back to the writing table and so on. I think you have to love to write, as chances are very slim for many of us.

Mark Heartford

thank you for your help , I do get lost in my own thoughts I will try and get back into the writing thank you

Kaitlin Gagnon

never give up, mark! the fact that you have enough talent to be able to put pen to paper and write about anything at all gives you a blessing that so many people are not fortunate enough to have. your ideas are most worthy and given how honest you are on this forum about depression (something, i think, so many of us writers can relate to) proves you have the ability to connect with others. use that as inspiration to keep going, allow that depression to exist, acknowledge it, and grow from it (through writing!). all the best!

Eric Christopherson

It's fairly normal to look at your own work from time to time and think what you just wrote is garbage. When I see some really outstanding film, or read a great book, it doesn't depress me (probably because I'm not clinically depressed). I might feel some moments of jealousy, though, and what I try to do is analyze the work to see why it's so great. So next time you see a great film, go get the script, and dissect it!

Steve Brumwell

Most of the things I have written of late have been informed by my mental illness and have received some of the best feedback. Authenticity is powerful in writing, it is very hard but be brave and be true and let it all out.

Jacob Buterbaugh

I think it's a much greater problem when you look at your film, or your script, and you think you're already as good as you want to be.

You never want to be the most talented person in the room, and you certainly never want to think you're the most talented person in the room.

Pamela Bolinder

Mark: Writing is an excellent way to cope with depression. Productivity stimulates the chemical messengers in your brain. When the depression lifts, be sure to review your script. While writing is cathartic, ideas penned in a depressive state may not follow your original story path—maybe, it's better. Many well-known successful writers suffer from depression. Comparing yourself to others is never a good thing. You have unique gifts that no one else has. Keep developing your best work. You asked: " do you get through this mental block" Answer: Write yourself out of writer's block!

Rutger Oosterhoff

"Write yourself out of writer's block! " Powerfull stuff!!

Joleene Moody

When I get like this, I don't put any pressure on the story. I don't give myself a deadline, I don't decide that it has to happen "or else."

Also, I believe in processing and giving myself time when I feel this way. It's hard for us to think that we can go through days without writing, because then we don't feel productive.

If you need to sit with yourself for a little while, know that that's okay.

And if you absolutely feel like you have to write, try not to judge it. Just write as much as you can, and then be with yourself and give yourself the gift of time.

For the record, this is part of my struggle right now. I have decided not to write anything fresh for the next few months, and instead just focus on a upcoming production in June. That needs to be okay. And I'm allowing it. :)

Gordon Greaves

It goes with the territory. You're not alone. Even writers like Aaron Sorkin feel like this. There's only one antidote. Sit back down in front of the keyboard and re-write it better. Writing is re-writing. Re-writing is learning. The other thing you need to do is GET OUT! Writing is a very lonely profession so if you're already prone to the blues and you're spending hours and hours with nothing but four walls an your characters for company, it's only normal that you're going to feel the whole world is passing you by while you're sitting there feeling like Sisyphus. Go have coffee with a friend. Go sit in the lounge of a nice hotel with your laptop and do some research there instead of in your room. Go for a walk. Smell the air. Smell the coffee. Smell the exhaust fumes, whatever - sometimes a walk also helps percolate those ideas up from where they've got stuck and you get back and things flow. Writing is creating. You're plumbing the depths of your soul with a regularity and depth that most people avoid. Welcome to the club. It's what we do. So yes, you face your demons more regularly than others. But guess what? That's why you tell such cool stories!!

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

I've been participating in creative endeavors for many years. When I used to go see the best drummers in the world I was inspired by their performances. But I also became frustrated seeing how adept they played and the gap between their abilities and mine. However, many of them spent 8 hours a day practicing to achieve their superb skills. When it comes to practice, Screenwriting is no different than playing drums. Keep doing it and chances are you'll get better with experience. Aspire for greatness and be a good storyteller. And spend more time honing your craft and less time beating yourself up over your work. The way I see it, writing should be an enjoyable task. Best of luck!

Todd Bronson

Flip the script. Watch crappy films and take comfort you can write better than those schmucks. Also, once I found my voice, I stopped comparing and copying other scripts. You will reach a point where you will be secure in your screenwriting. It will happen if you persist. As Mr. Hardy suggests, then you will discover writing is enjoyable.

John Day

Also remember that writing can be an act of healing regardless of whether anyone ever reads it. I've seen research studies that show how people who journal every day are in considerably better health compared to those who don't. Just focus on telling your own story and try to enjoy that process.

Gordon Greaves

FYI Aaron Sorkin says that being in a state of writer's block is his default position. And yet he writes TV series like West Wing and Newsroom and movies like A Few Good Men, Steve Jobs, The Social Network, Moneyball, Molly's Game, etc.

Craig D Griffiths

Depression is a serious medical condition that has to be addressed. I have a loved one that has struggled with this crippling mental illness for years. Speak to your medical professional for help.

Now in the writing front. Just keep writing, you will improve. Now find the joy in the writing not the sale of your writing.

Cherie Grant

I started writing screenplays when I was 26. I'm now 44 and only this year putting my work out. Depression has slowed me down by over a decade. The meds have crushed my creativity and ruined my memory and word recall. I've overcome it now, mostly, I don't need meds and don't want them now. They were a lifesaver at the time, but there were consequences to my life as well. At some point, the writing was all I had and even though I was going no where i just kept at it cause I literally had nothing else. So I'm not offering advice here, just letting you know someone else has been through the same situation and i know the pain of having depression control your life. It's bloody awful. push through. Find a way.

Mark Heartford

I like to say thank you for everyone for your help in this problem, I have started to get my thoughts back in a positive frame and I hope that all of you are fighting your way though this, thank you are too small words for your help and kindness I wish I could find better ones

Dale Lippman

How can you not feel depressed after reading Beautiful Boy? He quits on his most intimate relationship when he sends her off in an ambulance because she overdoses, and then, when he begs for a chance to return home, his dad says he's done. Even his apparent recovery is written like we're waiting for the next foot to fall. You might find a success story from such drug abuse on youtube to refresh your mind!

Owen Mowatt

Depression is a serious medical condition that has to be addressed.

THIS. It is not a test of your compassion, nor is anyone a trained professionals or doctor, however heartfelt the advice maybe.

Has Mark actually been diagnosed with depression? If so, what level?

Did his doctor advise that he take up writing or did he?

How long has he been doing it?...etc.etc

Worst case scenario: If Mark is actually severley depressed and undiagnosed, has now taken up an activity (or has been doing it for years) which he reports is actually making it worse, how is advising him to carry on the right thing?

Nothing wrong in reaching out, Mark and I commend you for being brave enough to discuss it. But I, lke Craig, having first hand experience of this illlness, am a little more cautious of driving the nail in while thinking I'm levering it out.

Patricia Poulos

Hi Mark. Not sure if you 'believe', but going to a church when few are around and blurting it all out, has helped some.

Be a Builder! Build your own script bit by bit. Learn whatever you can from reading good scripts and watching good movies but, don't take them to heart. You are unique! As are all creatives. We can learn from those before and around us, but what you create is your own masterpiece - and it will be a masterpiece. Just take it a step at a time.

Good Luck with it all.

Patricia Zell

Remember that the scriptwriters of those films of high standard were once where you are now. Everyone has to start somewhere, and no one is a success when they start. The question you should ask yourself is "Do I really want to put in the effort for this quest?" Especially in the beginning, there will be times of frustration and maybe even despair. It won't be easy, and it may take a lot of time. Is it worth the difficulty and the time for you?

Pamela Bolinder

Mark: Thank you is enough. Your response is heartfelt. PM anytime. Sometimes it is nice to bounce ideas off of another fellow writer. =)

Patricia Poulos

When I suffer the loss of a dear friend or, as more recently, the loss of my mum, I write poetry. Writing is my only means of coping and it is deep. Having the ability to write for me, prevents depression as I dig deep and bring up all the emotions which could, possibly, lead to depression. Writing cures the ailments of the soul.

Shawn Speake

Great thread! Hey, Mark. Begin the healing process by smiling for a new pic. You look troubled in your current pic and this is not good for your recovery. Another reason for your dilemma could be something's not right in your story. Check out UNFUCK YOURSELF: Get out of your head and into your life...

Pamela Bolinder

Patricia: I'm sorry for the recent loss of your mum. I think YOU are her best work! <3

Patricia Poulos

Pamela, Thank you for such a lovely response.

Alessandro Machi

Step one, reread your work and fix typos, such as the one you have in your original topic post. Step two, NEVER compare your script to a finished, multi million dollar movie. Find the script version of the movie that you think is so much better than your script, and read it. And see what you see, learn what you can learn.

Rutger Oosterhoff

A shrink in a theater

This is a tranlated passage of an article I read today in the paper. It's about a shrink noticing that in the 'break' of the movie he was watching, everybody turned on their cell phones. He could only just resist the urge to do the same...

".... What does that do to our brain and our attitude? The answer is, I fear, grisly. The overproduction and overconsumption of stimuli and distraction makes us become mere collectors of impressions and experiences instead of processors. That's also what I see more and more often in my psychological practice: 'meaningless' people. Searching for meaning by consuming experiences, but unaware of the fact that their problem lies in this very behaviour, often symtomatically expressed in burnout or depression: they can not find the pause button. It turns out to be difficult to convince people that you can't grow if you don't 'reflect',which often feels like doing nothing."

Could it really be that we do not know anymore that it's about the quality of the information we consume, not the quantity? This lack of 'consciousness' could mean that when time goes by the quality of feature movies in our theaters will dramatically suffer! Especially if we focus on the low standards of what most of youth sees as a 'good movie/a quality message' nowadays!!

Do not think that the movies people make for (their) social media channels, is in whatever lenght, you should want to see in the cinema, it's not!!

Then again, the quality of short movies is soooooo much higher than it was 25 years ago, which seems a contradiction but isn't. It only tells us that the gap between people who still are able (or must I say WILLING) to 'tranlate' information (being info in whatever form) they process and those who do not process info anymore, got bigger.

And now, back to you Mark. Giving meaning to your feelings, reflecting, is already part of a healing process. If you want to write, write, if your head feels like full, go and take a walk and reflect. Or even allow yourself to literally think about nothing. Yes, I know, the last part (now) feels like a contradiction again...

Pamela Bolinder

One of the biggest issues here was tipped-off by Owen—we simply do not have enough information. That said, the responses here seem to have spurred motivation. Mark expressed gratitude and that his "thoughts back in a positive frame".

Bill Costantini

Hi Mark,

Well jeez, man...I'd maybe be a bit depressed over comparing my writing to A Beautiful Boy, too. And then I'd lick my wounds, and be inspired to ascend to that level. I mean. the writer of that book, David Sheff, has been a pro writer for a long time. Award-winning journalist, magazine writer, novelist...that dude is a serious, serious, serious writer. He's also on the board of organizations that deal with mental health issues.

That one started many great stories do...based on true life, then became an article, then a book, and then a film. And David Sheff is not a "quickie writer". He puts a lot of though, effort and time - a lot of time - in everything he writes. So if you want to write like David Sheff, you have to treat writing like David Sheff does, too, and plan and outline like he does, if you're not. (And which he does.)

And of course, his writing is rooted in a lot of deep, personal pain - like most great drama is. So he might have a bit of an advantage over you, when it comes to writing on that level and on that subject.

Maybe if you're depressed because of that....maybe you should review your process of writing, and maybe it needs some tweaking. Trained writers - especially old-school journalists - scrutinize and outline the heck out of everything. 20 Questions for the Writer is a great book in that regard. So is Outline Your Novel. I've never read it, but The Memoir Notebook gets great reviews, too.

If your depression is bigger than that single incident you mentioned, well, depending on whose study you look at, results show that creative people are more likely to be depressed than non-creative people - up to 20 times more likely, in fact. 20 times!

All I can say to that is - in the immortal utterances of Sam Kenison: AHHHH! AHHHH! AHHHH!


Life's tough in so many ways. Making "stuff" that is so hard to make in the first place...and then finding you're like one of millions trying to succeed in an endeavor where maybe 1% do succeed...that's enough in itself to depress anyone. Throw in the rest of life's realities...and the upcoming Brexit thingie...and aye-yah - life can be even more sad.

Hang in there, Mark, and do what you can or get what is available to you to help you through the tough times. And my apologies if you already know all of may figuratively hit me with a cricket bat or something big and made of hard wood - but not in the face, please...not in the face!.

Shawn Speake

His language gave me the impression he’s feeling depressed. If he used specific terms about his illness I would not have commented. Clinical depression is above my pay grade.

Patricia Poulos

Rutger Oosterhoff a great post!

Julie Say

Hi Mark, I completely understand how you feel thinking that your own writing is not good enough. I suffer this too and am painfully shy, however for some reason I keep coming back to writing and it can also serve as an escape from these kinds of thoughts. I also think it takes a team of great people to make a high standard film. I would say that if you have feelings that your idea is not worth it, then find another idea that resonates with you and that you can't let go of even if you try.

Stephen Thor

Having depression is an offshoot sign of intelligence, I am NOT implying that having depression means you are good or bad or not having depression means you are a good or bad writer. Some of the most miserable people on the earth are depressed, in my opinion that an intelligent person has the ability to look around and outside of themselves and can come to the conclusion that life itself is meaningless. Or not. I saw in a survey (seemed reliable) that most suicides are by depressed, intelligent people. Think of all the famous rock stars, celebrities or actors who are absolutely brilliant... yet they are depressed and sometimes take their own lives. It is my personal opinion that these people, even tho surrounded by supporting people and relationships, have not yet found true love, or the love of their life or whatever you want to call it, and it is not returned if they think they have. Of course, I could be completely wrong... Stephen Thor

Pamela Bolinder

For many good reasons, I'm not going to dive into this subject. Stephen, depression is not a one-size-fits-all condition and life is NOT meaningless. Intelligence and suicide are not directly related.

Owen Mowatt

Thank you, Pamela, but I'd go further and advise that Stephen delete that post.

It is hideously stupid.

Pamela Bolinder

It is NOT stupid. That said, I did advise he delete but for a different reason.

Owen Mowatt

It is hideously stupid, Pamela.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Stephen Thor, I kindly suggest you research truths, facts, and complexities about clinical depression, mental illness, death by suicide, and what damage stigma and misinformation can cause. That said, this is an open forum for people to share opinions.

Pamela Bolinder

Owen: I understood that the first time you said it. I am feeling under the weather today—not in the mood to spar. As a matter of fact, I'm not into sparring. Let our opinions stand. We do not have to agree or disagree. People can decide for themselves or fashion their own beliefs. PEACE.

Owen Mowatt

Sorry to hear about your illness, Pamela, but I did read somewhere that if you stick earthworms up your nose, eat raw chicken with bleach, it'll help clear it up. I think even famous people do that.

Pamela Bolinder


Sam Borowski

Mark, You are clearly putting too much pressure on yourself. Art should be espoused as therapy, so therefore, your writing should be therapeutic, but you have to remember, the REAL RACE is not against some Oscar-Winning Best Original Screenplay ... it's against You! Just write to the BEST of your ability and use passion while you do so. Depression and Pain can often provide some of the best material, though I am NOT making light of your suffering. I am, however, saying it's wonderful to be inspired by the BIGGEST and BEST movies, but you have to understand, you are NOT in competition with them. I have several mutual friends with Nick Vallelonga and a year and a couple of years ago, he made a deal to tell his father's story, about how he drove a prominent African-American classical pianist through the Deep South on a concert tour in the sixties. That became Green Book. Nick came from some humble beginnings, as well. You are NOT competing with anyone but yourself. AND, surround yourself with a GREAT SUPPORT SYSTEM of writers, producers, friends, etc that will give you constructive, but real criticism, NOT to hurt you in any way, shape or form, BUT to help make your work the BEST IT CAN BE. STAY POSITIVE ... and STAY FRESH! GOD BLESS my friend and if you ever need any advice, feel free to reach out. <3

Julie Say

Thank you, Sam Borowski, well said sound advice.

Mark, I hope you find the inspiration to be unique and write from the heart.

Mark Heartford

I admit I am shocked and surprised by the response and I have taken on board many of your thoughts and the Book UNF#uck Yourself is a must read for anyone and everyone, I hope that all of you are writing and getting on and yes I have restarted again and I find myself now with more direct engery into the creative craft, please excuse the bad spelling, thank you

Patricia Poulos

Hi Erik Jacobsen. Great new shot!

Patricia Poulos

Hi Mark. Don't worry about the spelling. Even the best of us muck up at some time or another - and I'm not saying I'm one of the best of us, just muck up occasionally.

Patricia Poulos

What??? Owen? LOL

Patricia Poulos

A lovely post Sam. God Bless You.

Patricia Poulos

Hi Erik, a beautifully moving response. Thank you.

Owen Mowatt

I was just trying to help. ;)

Alessandro Machi

I think spelling matters. I don't understand why someone would let a grammatical error remain and just keep it in the original topic when it can be edited and removed.

Shawn Speake

What's good, Sexy People! Strong posts! All of you...Sam Borowski super post, playboy. You ladies and gentlemen, rock! It's an honor to be here. I've learned a lot. Looking for perfection is just an excuse for something much deeper and bigger. I need to quit fooling myself too and get back to pumping pages. I thank you all.

Patricia Poulos

Thank you Erik..

Patricia Poulos

Hi Shawn. Great new photo... or is it? Have I missed it in the past? Great post. And you're right!

Roman BRuni

it is really tough to look at the sides. everyone seems to be so advanced, so rich, so good...

also it is a good idea to stabilish a line - not to cross -

From research to life. feeling down to write a down character is useful... staying depressed for it suggests other issues are cracking in and requesting attention.

keep walking. !

Pamela Bolinder

He Patricia... happy to see you in the threads! Missed ya!

Patricia Poulos

Thanks Pamela! Love.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

Hi y'all. I haven't been in the lounge in months, but cool first thread! It's so comforting to know this widespread community of writers all 'get' the depression thing. And we all get the 'comparing myself to others' mindtrap. Mark, Julia Cameron's self-help book Artist's Way is a fun and easy 10 week course that is well worth the commitment. I did it, twice, and that launched my writing 12 years ago. She addresses these issues, the compairing trap, writer's block, depression, with a few important practices that I still do today. One is daily journaling. This gets the garbage out, and makes room for the gratitude. Another trick her course has you do is to Feed Your Creative Soul with something she calls 'Artist's Dates'. Celebrating your creative nature on a regular basis is an important way to bring joy into your life. That's the win that matters.

To end on a funny note, here's my favourite quote, from Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, "To be a screenwriter is to deal with an ongoing tug of war between breataking megalomania and insecurity so deep it takes years of therapy just to be able to say 'I'm a writer' out loud." so true. So terribly embarrasingly true.

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