Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How not to be a slave to your writing expectations

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?

Here’s what:

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 …

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

HOW SIMPLE BUT COMPLICATED. I GET SOME OF THE GIST OF YOUR MESSAGE, BUT NOT ALL.

OK DAVE, I GIVE UP, YOU ARE AHEAD OF YOUR TIME.

BUT I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ARE YOU SURE YOU'RE NOT THE DEPAK CHOPRA OF SCREENWRITING.

THIS WAS A GOOD READ OVERALL, JUST AT TIMES COMPLICATED.

MAYBE YOU CAN SIMPLIFY USING A EXAMPLE FROM A CURRENT OR CLASSIC MOVIE!

ALL THE BEST!

Raving Dave Herman said...

Yes, often the most profound concepts can be expressed very simply (e=mc2) but they require a lifetime to really understand.

I love your suggestion of illustrating the concept of debilitating expectations with examples from movies!!

I'm absolutely going to take you up on that, so watch this space ...

Many thanks for your contribution!

Regards,

Dave

MissWrite said...

The only response can be a quote from the great Mamet (saw your quote on the sidebar but this one is much more appropo): Life in the movie business is a like the beginning of a new love affair: it's full of furprises and you are constantly getting ******.

But you gotta love it anyway.

Raving Dave Herman said...

Thanks for the delightful quote, Miss Write!

Of course love affairs are all about expectations too. Which is why romcoms rarely venture beyond the scene in which they finally kiss or walk down the aisle ...

Regards,

Dave