Self-Care While Writing the Great American Screenplay

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Everyone knows writing can be stressful. Not a writer alive publicly proclaims “this is always extremely easy!” and lives to tell the tale, especially if they have murderously jealous writer friends. Art isn’t always simple and effortless. There are ups, downs, and a lot of quiet space in between which you can spend slowly breaking down and digesting your own mind. It can be challenging.

Let’s just say you enter a down phase. One where, say, you believe everything is against you including your keyboard. What are some ideas for self-care when you need to turn that frown upside down and/or make it to the end of the day?

Let’s dive in!

Chernobyl (2019) Photo courtesy: HBO

No 1 — Perspective, perspective

It’s easy to let yourself believe that everything you are depends on the success of something you are writing. But you are more than whatever you are writing, and you have more stories to tell than whatever particular story you are currently telling. You are your best hope of success, even when you think you’re failing. So keep at it!

Even if the worst case scenario comes to pass and you “fail” at your art, keep in mind: it will never be as bad as Chernobyl. Nobody’s face is going to boil off if you have to have to rewrite your script. Right? See, it’s all in the perspective.

Free Solo (2018) Photo courtesy: National Geographic Documentary Films

No. 2 — Get outdoors

Nothing helps calm the mind like the Great Outdoors.

If you’re feeling unavoidably chained to the computer, get outside and take a walk, even if it’s around the block. Let your mind wander while you make judgmental mental notes about other people’s flower gardens. Take in some fresh air. Write a haiku about two roads diverging in a wood. Above all, take some time to breathe and look around you.

But wear a safety harness if you’re climbing up a mountain. If you want. Just a suggestion.

Barry (2018) Photo courtesy: HBO

No. 3 — Take up a hobby

Writing is work. It’s hard. Even if you’ve got a day job, making art will still feel like work, if you take it seriously. That’s the bald truth.

So if you need a break, take up a hobby. What takes your mind off your story? Knitting, cooking, acting, randomly challenging people 31 years older than you to MMA fights? Find something and let yourself enjoy it. Your story will be waiting for you when you get back, I promise, and you’ll be refreshed by the break.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017) Photo courtesy: Amazon Studios

No. 4 — Retail therapy

Who doesn’t love buying stuff?

A lot of people, actually. Some people get nervous in public areas and also hate tiny, deceptive dressing room mirrors. But if you love shopping and it calms you down, then go for it! Get out there and stimulate that economy with your super money power. Buy a nice shirt. Get some really tasty pastrami. Order a blank notebook emblazoned with “Ledger of Perceived Slights” that you can take to cafés and write in while eyeballing your fellow customers. Enjoy it.

Take a minute to enjoy life. Maybe even several minutes. It just might refresh you.

Killing Eve (2018) Photo courtesy: BBC America

No. 5 — Call a so-called buddy

Writing can be a solitary activity. Sometimes staying inside your own head for too long can get to be too much, so call a buddy. Ask to go hang out. Get out of the house. Do something you’ve never done before. Meet new people who happen to be spies and want to train you to be an assassin working for a shady cartel of space aliens. It’s up to you! Reach out and have fun. Maybe don’t call your nemesis on the phone if you are locked in a mortal battle for survival with said nemesis. But again, it’s up to you!

What are your favorite ways to unwind when the going gets tough? Sound off in the comments!

 

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Jennie Evenson is the author of "Shakespeare for Screenwriters" (Michael Wiese, 2013) and the forthcoming "Storytelling Secrets of the Masters." As a writer in LA, Evenson worked as a consultant for Netflix and developed ideas at production houses from DreamWorks to Focus Features. You can follow her on Twitter: @JM_Evenson

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