How Thanksgiving Can Make You a Better Writer
By Jacob Krueger
There are days all writers live for: those great writing days when inspiration is flowing, every moment is connected, and the words are coming so easily it seems like the screenplay is writing itself.
On days like these, it’s easy to feel like a writer.
It’s easy feel thankful for your creative gifts and grateful for the opportunity to share them. It’s easy to know that you’ve got something important to say, and that people are going to want to hear you say it. It’s easy to feel like you can control your own destiny, and find the confidence to make it to where you need to go.
If only it was always so easy.
If writing was all about the good days, everyone would be a writer.
But real writers know those days can be few and far between. And though there are many things you can learn to tap into that inspiration and make those great days come more frequently, there will always be parts of the writing process you cannot control.
Real writers are not made on the good days. Real writers are made on the hard ones.
You know the days I’m talking about. When you slave away at your screenplay for hours and hours, and still feel like you haven’t written a single believable line. When you find yourself staring endlessly at the computer screen, with no idea of what happens next. When your characters refuse to talk to you in any kind of reasonable way. Or when you write what you think is a perfectly successful scene, only to realize that people aren’t getting it.
Many young writers imagine that the great writers never go through these challenges, but the truth is exactly the opposite. Great writers go through just as many bad writing days as you do. The difference is, great writers know how to manage the bad days, and turn them into good ones.
The Secret To Surviving As A Writer Begins With Finding The Good
Finding all the many things that are wrong with our writing is the easiest thing in the world. We’ve been trained for it since we were in elementary school, when we first learned that there were good and bad ways to express ourselves, and that we had better conform to society’s expectations, or the people around us were going to tear us apart.
We practice it every day, tearing apart movies we see at the theaters, and our own writing before the ink is even dry on the page, and sometimes before we’ve even found the courage to write the first word.
The result is an internal censorship that happens before we’re even aware of it—a gnawing fear deep inside us that makes us reject our best ideas before we even realize we’ve had them, cuts us off from our most creative impulses, puts a wall between us and our characters, and makes it harder and harder to sit down at the computer.
This problem is exacerbated by well meaning writers groups, coverage readers, friends, and advisors, who spend so much time trying to fix what’s wrong, they end up crushing your ability to see what’s right.
We become so focused on trying to do things properly, fixing all the problems, and correcting all the mistakes that oftentimes we’re not even capable of recognizing our best writing when we actually write it.
That’s not to say there isn’t a time for helpful criticism.
It’s important to recognize the things that are not working in your script. The mistake is thinking that we can fix all the problems in our writing before we know what we are building.
And the only way to know what you are building is to learn to identify what is already good, where the greatest potential already lies, even on the toughest of writing days.
Just like in life, the things you put your focus on end up affecting what you see.
Focus on how poor you are, and you will miss out on every opportunity to be rich.
Focus on your friend who always flakes out on you, and you’ll completely miss out one the ones who are there for you through everything.
Focus on the problems in your screenplay, and you’ll never see the beauty in what you’ve already created.
This Thanksgiving, Turn Your Process Inside Out
Just for the next few days, I’d invite you to try a new approach to your writing.
Set aside the well-intentioned criticism of your writing groups, coverage readers, family, friends, and your own inner censor, and spend your time looking only for the good things in every page you write.
Remind yourself that you’ll have plenty of time for criticism later. And focus on uncovering the little gifts that you can be thankful for, even in the most problematic scene.
Remember that this is a process, and that at first it may be hard to even recognize your best writing when you see it. Often it’s our most authentic writing that makes us feel most vulnerable and exposed, and our most brave and inspired choices that our inner censor is most afraid of being judged for.
Seek out mentors that push you to figure out the beauty of what you’re building, before they try to make you “fix” what you’ve got. Take classes that put you in touch with your instincts, rather than imposing rules and formulas that stifle your creativity. And celebrate your hard writing days as much as you celebrate your easy ones, remembering that it’s these days that truly make you a writer.