No, I’m not referring to that mythical, seven-figure sale after an intense and bloody bidding war between five rival studios. I’m referring to what Positive Psychology’s Big Kahuna, Dr. Martin Seligman calls the three aspects of a happy life. In his TED lecture What positive psychology can help you become, Seligman distinguishes three levels of happiness:
The Pleasant Life – Full of pleasure, positive emotions, smiles and cheeriness.
The Good Life – Full of positive engagement, a flow in which time stops and one doesn’t feel anything, when a person’s unique strengths are most at the fore.
The Meaningful Life – Full of activities in which one’s talents serve something bigger than oneself.
I recommend you watch his lecture to get a proper picture of what he’s referring to, but let me just add my own adaptation to the life of a screenwriter:
The Pleasant Life – The excitement of the profession as a social arena, being part of the glamorous or at least public world of cinema, dreaming of Oscars, Hollywood and hobnobbing with the stars. The fun and emotional thrill of being involved in filmmaking.
The Good Life – The work. The flow. The part of being a screenwriter when everything else disappears and you are just in the writing, with no sense of time passing and with no feelings as such. The total, positive engagement with the task at hand.
The Meaningful Life – The part you hopefully get to when your films are produced and screened, when your films enrich other people’s lives with valuable insights, using humour, romance, action, science fiction or whatever your forte is.
When you reach that stage, screenwriting becomes a source of personal fulfilment as well as something that improves the quality of other people’s lives. Not bad for a mere storyteller, right? Certainly a powerful image of what to strive for every time you sit down to write.