Weekend Writing Inspiration: Surviving “No” With the Inner Game of Writing
January 18, 2019
|“How can I stay motivated in a new year of writing, when last year all I faced was rejection?”|
If (so far) the screenwriting world has been telling you “no,” how do you stay motivated to keep writing, without losing heart? All the goal setting, inspiration and motivation that comes up with a new year may not be enough to help you overcome a lurking what’s the point, it hasn’t worked yet feeling that underlies any goals and resolutions you set.
You may not feel blocked by this per se, but you might feel a bit flat. As if you’re mustering up a false enthusiasm to keep going when the overall picture looks bleak. And sometimes, it really does look bleak.
This is where understanding the inner game of writing comes into play. Your ability to persevere — to thrive, even — in the face of evidence that appears discouraging is what sets you apart from those that give up and throw in the towel. It’s all about your mindset, and the traits you cultivate within yourself, like determination, resilience, and even a little willful denial.
Let’s talk about some ways to help yourself keep on keeping on, even when the signs aren’t quite pointing to “yes” …yet.
Adopt a growth mindset
Start by adopting a growth mindset. You can read more about this concept in the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. The essential premise is that your perception of the results you achieve can be supportive or unsupportive. With a growth mindset, if something doesn’t work, you tackle it as something to learn and grow from. With a fixed mindset, you perceive something not working out as a failure or flaw within you as a person. Having a growth mindset makes it easier to recover from setbacks and keep on writing.
Level up your writing skill set
No matter how good a writer you are, there’s always room for growth. Where are you holding back? Where can you grow and learn more? Where are you making the same mistakes again and again, script after script?
If you can’t tell, it might be time to get some outside perspective to help you figure out what’s not working, so you can apply yourself to learning how to fix it.
Great athletes and artists constantly push the boundaries of their own skills. As a screenwriter, you’ll want to do the same. Level up by taking classes, getting feedback, working with coaches, experts, and mentors, and studying the masters. Along with your growth mindset, think of this as part of your own self-mastery and the mastery of your craft.
Strengthen your inner drive
When you committed to being a writer, you signed up for a long term gig. Writing takes grit, perseverance, determination, and drive. You may not see results for years to come. But consider the alternative: can you imagine feeling satisfied in your life without writing? No? That’s your drive to write. Rely on it. Feed it. Remind yourself how important writing is to you, and why it matters. Turn to your “big why” to strengthen your inner drive and resolve if ever you lose your way.
Muster your courage
Writers face doubt, despair, lack of results, rejection, resistance, procrastination, perfectionism, and more. It’s rough. This is your hero’s journey. And every hero needs courage to see themselves through the battles, the long treks through dangerous wildernesses, dark nights of the soul, and the all-is-lost moments they face along the way. You have committed yourself to a deeply challenging course of action that will test you in ways you cannot even imagine yet. Courage to keep going, even when you’re not sure you can do it, is how a hero gets through the tough times.
Be the hero of your own story, and remember, when you’re going through hell, don’t stop to look around — keep going.
Resilience is a writer’s master skill. It’s about bouncing back when feedback doesn’t match up with your hopes and expectations. It’s about buckling down and getting back to work even if you get distracted or discouraged by comparing your writing life to someone else’s. It’s about hitting a rough patch in a script and finding a way to keep going, even when it seems impossible.
Your resilience is your ability to shake it off — whatever “it” is that’s throwing you off track — and recover when things go wrong. Seek out and employ tools to help you manage your inner critic, and create support systems to help you get back to writing and delivering on your screenplay concepts as quickly as possible.
Keep the faith
There’s a certain amount of willful blindness to reality that helps a screenwriter keep their head down and keep writing, even in the face of your less-than-shining external results so far. You can also think of it as keeping the faith — and it is. After all, to most of the outside world, writers look like dreamers until we finish and get our work published or produced. It’s up to us to keep believing in ourselves and our call to write until that day comes.
Your weekend writer’s assignment
Spend a few minutes journaling this weekend. Notice: do you have a growth mindset, or a fixed mindset? Are you constantly looking for ways to improve, or do you tend toward a black/white, failure/success mentality? If the latter, what might you do to start seeing this as a journey and a learning process instead?
Then, take a look at places where you might be able to shore up your writing skillset, along with your drive, courage, resilience, and faith. Turn to a coach or mentor if you need help getting clear on where you are, and where you want to go. I’ll be in your corner, rooting for you every step of the way.
Got questions you want answered?
After working with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, writing coach and Called to Write Founder Jenna Avery has answers for you about how to balance your life and your screenwriting, trust yourself more as writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Jenna’s online form at https://calledtowrite.com/final-draft and she may choose your question to answer anonymously in a future article.
Written by: Jenna AveryJenna Avery is a screenwriter, columnist, and blogger who redesigned her life and career to support her calling to write. She specializes in sci-fi action and space fantasy, and her most recent project is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story for a Canadian producer. Jenna is also a writing coach and the founder of Called to Write, where she has helped hundreds of writers overcome procrastination, perfectionism, and resistance so they can get their writing onto the page and into the world where it belongs. Jenna writes about writing, creativity, and calling at calledtowrite.com, for ScriptMag, for Final Draft, and teaches for Screenwriter’s University. Download Jenna’s free guidebooks for writers when you join her mailing list at https://www.calledtowrite.com/mailing-list