Some screenwriters waste a lot of time and energy complaining about the film industry not treating them fairly. Of course it can be a relief to let off steam after a disappointing meeting, a set of boorish notes or a rejection letter. However, if you examine the assumptions feeding these feelings, you just might find you’re causing yourself more grief than necessary.
In his inspiring article The Tyranny of Expectations, vipassana meditation teacher Phillip Moffitt invites people to reflect on how their conscious and unconscious expectations are the cause of shame, disappointment, feelings of inadequacy, and so on.
In the case of screenwriters, these expectations might range from what defines a “good” screenwriter, to what you expect in return for all the work you’ve put in, or how you expect a “typical producer” to behave, and so on.
It’s what you expect that determines how you feel about the outcome of any given event. And the last thing a screenwriter needs, as someone who lives by and for their creative work, is to feel agitated, anxious, needy and desperate because of debilitating expectations.
So what to do?
Be brutally honest with yourself about what you expect, and how these expectations are stopping you enjoying the present. That sounds easier than it is. Because when you begin to dig deeper, beyond the big, obvious expectations, you inevitably encounter smaller, unrealistic expectations, which are causing all kinds of upsetting and frustrating experiences.
Be aware of the difference between expectations and possibilities and allow yourself to be open to possibilities rather than fixated on expectations. When you’re focused on noticing possibilities in the now, “… your well-being is not contingent on the future.”
Be aware to what extent you define yourself and your well-being in terms of your goals and plans. Because that’s all they are. If life takes you in another direction, there may be much more fulfilling possibilities waiting for you there. Letting go of a pre-conceived notion of what your life as a screenwriter should look like, can be immensely liberating!
And parenthetically, apart from this being sound advice for those of us suffering needlessly rather than writing, it’s actually also a wonderful way to think about your characters …
What do they expect, and how is that hampering them, stopping them from living a more fulfilling and rewarding life?
Something to focus your attention on next time you feel yourself slipping conveniently into the role of victimized and unrecognized artist …