I’m a writer, so naturally I hate writing.
This is a common joke I make when I tell people what I do. And I usually get at least a smirk of understanding from whomever I am speaking to. My article is about “personal writing for self development”
For many, the strongest association people draw with writers is our chronic “writer’s block.” If we aren’t making six-figures directly out of college, we are often seen as miserable, isolated, depressive wannabe auteurs.
There is some truth to this belief. Many writers struggle with the fear, pain and anxiety that comes with the job of being expressive in the most direct and revealing way a human can possibly be — with language.
But that’s not our fault.
What writing actually is?
Writing is the mechanism by which we synthesize the chaos of our minds and hearts into a socially recognizable form. Anyone who does creative writing professionally offers their pain, fear and prejudice up for public scrutiny. They use the basic blocks for direct communication in order to create a mirage of authenticity. It removes the illusion that an artist and their art or separate. A character in a story will only expose the writer’s secrets to the world.
This can make our work rather painful.
Today, I’d like to ask you to confront this pain, and recapture the joy that comes from looking our pain in the face and realizing it isn’t as life-ending as our fear made it seem.
Rather than running from this pain, you can use it to make your art better and to care for your own mind.
Personal writing for self development
There is extensive evidence to suggest that personal writing is invaluable to behavioral and mental health. Writing helps us achieve internal understanding, which can only be beneficial in our journeys to attain happiness.
Considering the way you interpret the world to be worthy of public attention is what separates a hobby from a passion. Building a body of work, asking for feedback, or submitting art to contests are all ways of affirming that you had a thought that other people could benefit from being exposed to.
In my work, I try to achieve a double-impossibility. I want to show an actor or director exactly how I feel, and do. So while telling them how to express how I feel to other people.
Being a screenwriter is like starting a game of broken telephone. And with the prevalence of tropes and clichés, it’s all too easy for a writer to fallback on a basic approximation of their feelings for ease of consumption rather than attempting to display the nuances of their own feelings and ideas.
It’s tempting. I do it often and unconsciously. It’s easy to rely on the actions that culture has generated for you. But when you treat your art as something you get to cut corners on, you might as well be punching a clock.
As screenwriters, we are pretty well used to having our final products disregarded.
Few people read a screenplay for pleasure: they read it in order to work it into the form of a film and make it consumable and fiscally worth the amount of money necessary to create it.
To do this, a producer or director might overlook aspects of a screenplay that they don’t understand, don’t excite them, or that don’t fit with their interpretation of your work.
Personally, I hate being misunderstood. But being misunderstood is made all the more frustrating when the correct understanding of your own work is not seen as a worthwhile thing for a filmmaker to pursue.
As a screenwriter, it’s not common to be considered as artistical integral as, say, a novelist or a poet.
So we can react to this set of circumstances in one of two ways. We can allow our work to be devalued and conform it to a more recognizable if inaccurate set of misconceptions of what our work ought to be.
Or, we can hunker down and create work that is so raw, genuine, specific, and original, that they defy the ability to overlook nuances, because they are fundamentally composed of nuance.
We can choose to punch the clock, or to create.
This is the meaning of the above Hemingway quote. Sure, pain is an evocative emotion to project into art. But I believe that Hemingway uses ‘bleed,’ or pain, as synecdoche for vivid emotionality.
The ability to make a screenplay violently happy, or ecstatically morbid, or valiantly sensual — clear and specific and new — does not require a genius intellect or an independently wealthy lifestyle.
It requires the ability to face yourself, and vocalize what you want.
Beyond the issue of one’s own mental health, projecting one’s experience onscreen is more important now than ever before. For the first time in the history, marginalized people have broad access to the necessary channels for mainstream creativity.
Sure, not every one can become a screenwriter than earns a living through their art. But just about anyone can publish their short script to Reddit or film a sketch for a YouTube video.
World is slowly learning to regard point of view!
As the world slowly learns to regard points of view that have long been ignored or actively silenced. This making the experiences of all people plain and understandable onscreen is a huge asset in struggles for equality.
This is particularly true for screenwriting. A novel or poem might evoke feelings many have never felt before. I believe that a film can do a far more effective job of painting it in its clearest and most poignant form.
That’s not to say that the experience of a marginalized people should be painted in blood, as Hemingway might say: this is not merely about portraying the pain of struggles that the powerful cannot understand.
Indeed, painting images of joy and transcendence and valiance that more privileged people could never have imagined existed is a necessary counter balance to showing images of systemic oppression and pain.
Likewise, focusing on your mental health, writing about your feelings is important. But it is not only about purging the ugly parts of your mind and experience so you can forget about them and move on. It’s about confronting yourself holistically and achieving a clearer understanding of your wants and needs.
Speaking for self-image
Speaking of self-image, I now arrive at the part of the content that reminds me why I sometimes hate myself. I would be derelict in my duties as a content creator if I didn’t write a few sentences here about why I really wrote this article. I think it’s called “branded content.” I was going to take a class on it, but it sounded boring. And here we are.
But then tell me, why do writer’s like Hemingway want the writing process to feel like bleeding?
We aren’t kind to ourselves actually
We aren’t kind to ourselves as creatives. Our hyper rewards-driven, capitalist society has done a good job. It is making even the activities we are most passionate about tedious and uninteresting.
Many books will tell you how to approach screenwriting. As a result of reading these books and engaging my writing from the perspective of market success, I have personally struggled with finding internal motivation and joy in my writing. Screenwriting has, at times, not been the creative outlet. I use to synthesize my thoughts and fantasies into something resembling the real world. And also a material affirmation that my ideas have the right to take up space in the public eye.
We each have one life. When we discover our passion, we need to make sure that we enjoy every second of it.