If you’re like most human beings, you have insecurities. And if you consider yourself a “creative” type, those insecurities can sometimes be crippling. Indeed, life in general can be challenging so deciding to pursue a creative career can invite that many more obstacles to a happy and contented life. And that is why chocolatiers, pharmaceutical companies and alcohol distillers will always have job security.
In my career as a writer, I’ve noticed many new writers go through a kind of emotional metamorphosis that’s very similar to the stages of grief; a model first introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying.”
Denial (“I could never be Aaron Sorkin or Shonda Rhimes.”)
This is the first stage and perhaps the most dangerous. Because it usually comes under the guise of “fact” or “practical advice,” most of your friends and family members will often inadvertently crush your dreams. They will reinforce your insecurities about your talent. They may even, flat out, tell you to your face that you are not Aaron Sorkin or Shonda Rhimes and will never be able to write an Oscar winning screenplay or a “must-see” tv show. And you know what? They’re right!
But here’s the thing… most writers are not as good or as successful as these two titans and most never will be. Honestly, the most you can hope for is to get enough steady work to support you and a family and to be able to qualify for benefits through the Writers Guild. If you’re able to do that for any length of time, you are a baller, a shot caller – you get the idea.
Anger (“He’s a hack! A pig could write better dialogue.”)
So you’ve decided to take your friends advice and not try your hand at writing. If you’re not passionate about telling stories, this will work and you will put your attention to something far more fruitful. Law school is always a good idea. But if you truly need to write, denial will work…for a brief time.
But then one day, you will go to the Cineplex and plop down eighteen bucks (without popcorn) to see the fourth installment of an “action” franchise. After the lights come up, you will find yourself raging against the figurative “highway robbery ” that has just occurred. In a nutshell, the movie stank worse than Pizza-Rat playing in a pile of horse dung on a dead body down in the subway tracks of Port Authority. “How can this movie have been made?”, you ask no one in particular. While there may be plenty of reasons the movie sucked that have nothing to do with the writer’s talent, this will probably make you say, “I may not be Tony Gilroy but this “ish” (re: movie) is no “Bourne Identity!”
Bargaining (“If this movie/show got made, then, f**k it, I can do it too.”)
This “f**k” it attitude will give you the fuel you need to forge on to the next stage. And you will need it because here is where you drop to your knees and start to bargain with yourself and the writing goddesses. “If that can get made”, you plead, “then please, please, please let me finish my ‘Zombieland’ meets ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ script!” At this point, you probably won’t get an answer or a sign but “to the desk” you go! After all, that booth at Comic-Con is calling your name.
Depression (“This is hard!”)
But not so fast, Nancy Myers! Writing a script – good or bad – is difficult and can test anyone’s grit. This is the stage at which, if you’re not careful, can really sidetrack your writing aspirations permanently. Any writer, novice or expert, will feel that they’re failing at some point in writing their script. The difference, however, is that an experienced writer has figured out how to push through, despite a possibly crippling block or fear. Perhaps your outline needs to be fleshed out a bit or maybe your character is boring – whatever it may be, just keeping putting pen to paper.
Acceptance (“Put Up Or…)
Which brings me to the last stage. This is the stage at which you have to decide whether to “put up or shut up.” This is where you find the inspiration to sit down and actually write something with purpose and with the intention to tell your story like “come what may.”
And when you’ve pushed through and are staring at those glorious two words on the last page of your script, you are “officially” a writer. You get to do a “happy” dance! And just know when the euphoria passes and you’re faced with yet another script to write, these stages will start all over again. It’s annoying and unfair but that, my friend, is where the true “acceptance” lies. Besides, the writing goddess is watching and waiting. Happy writing!