How Does A Writer Fight Through Discouragement? by Erik Bork

(Watch the video interview on Youtube here)

Film Courage: So we had another viewer submitted question from Leo “How would an inexperienced writer enjoy writing if their writing skills aren’t spectacular but they love the idea they have? How do they not get discouraged and lose motivation afterwards?

Erik Bork, Screenwriter/Author:  Well that’s a definite challenge for all writers, discouraged and losing motivation. It’s really a mental and psychological game to stay with it in face of maybe other people not being excited about the story you’ve written. Which I think all writers have gone through. I certainly have and still go through at times when I am writing.

So it’s this weird combination of following your passion and your beliefs and your instincts and what is interesting to you while also listening to sort of feedback and guidance of what makes a compelling story for others.

Now some people I spoke with can enjoy writing and not care that anyone else ever gets it or likes it and then in that case you don’t have such a problem because I’m writing because I enjoy it. I don’t necessarily even show it to other people.

Most writers don’t want to do that, they want to show it to others and have others like it. That’s where it’s out of our control suddenly because others are not us right? So it’s easy when others don’t respond well to get discouraged but the reality is every script that anyone has ever written probably didn’t impress many people on this journey to wherever it got to. In other words it’s just hard to write something rare, to write something that people are going to give you the reaction that you wanted from it. For most people starting out that’s an elusive thing to get to that place. So it’s kind of like you almost have this kind of Zen approach of I’m just doing this anyway. I’m learning and growing and going to get there and not let anybody’s criticism derail you from that intense focus of this is what I want to do and continue to follow my voice. But my voice and my instincts are going to change somewhat when I study the craft and get feedback from others and I just look to make that feedback useful as opposed to devastating.

What is the thing that is missing from people in my work is basically the feedback I’m getting. Can I wrap my head around what is missing and why and apply that understanding to the next draft or the next thing I write. For most people it takes many scripts over many years to get to the point where you have a chance for the stuff they you are writing to really get successful to others who might matter to you and just knowing that all writers go through that. 

Check out Erik’s new book on Amazon here!

And there is this book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a great book because he really talks about is how part of us is afraid and resistant to just doing whatever it is we say we want to do. And we’ll use any excuse not to do it including others criticism or our own self-criticism. It’s kind of like to be productive and stay with it you have to sort of push all that aside and just continue going and turn the criticism into something productive instead of letting it get you down. Letting your own self-criticism which is really the hardest thing to put that aside, use it when you need to critique and analyze your work but not always be in the critical mode because if you’re in the critical mode you’re not in the creative mode, it’s kind of like you have to switch one off to get to the other. The creative mode is a more loose, free, open, relaxed trusting mode where ideas just sort of come. But if you’re in that mode of what’s wrong with it and what other people say what’s wrong with it or what do I think is wrong with me? Ideas don’t generally come through good ideas in that state. So you just have to work on managing your own emotional state and your own viewpoint in order to get to your best material.

Film Courage: I’ve mentioned this before but in ADAPTATION the two Nicholas Cage characters (Charlie Kaufman). One that just invents lightning and the other that overthinks everything and how paralyzing that is.

Erik: Yeah, Donald Kaufman the brother may not be writing the greatest material but he’s got a positive attitude toward himself and others that is infectious and leads to a lot of ideas to coming that do end up being successful in that context of that movie.

Film Courage: Right because we’ve seen this so many times in life, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy in either direction. And I think writers are especially prone because they are always in their heads and over thinking things. That’s the nature of why they are writers in some sense. But it can also really handicap them.

Do you remember when you sort of let up on yourself? Even if you still deal with…I mean we all do [self-criticism]. Seeing ourselves whether it’s on tape or whatever is always a cringeworthy moment for everybody I think. But do you remember when you were able to come to a more Zen place with that?

Erik: It’s an everyday practice. Everyday is a challenge to feel like…to sort of put on the right mindset to be creative and to be allowing and trusting and letting go and not being self-critical (too self-critical). So it’s not a one time thing that you get to where you’re like “Oh I don’t do that anymore.” You may get more used to how you can shift your energy into that other mode and so you have a way to do it but with like The War of Art would say the resistance in you is like trying to stop you and it will do it everyday. Just like there is a part of us that’s going to be self-critical to the point of paralyzing or counterproductive, self-sabotaging. So I really do think you have to…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

About Erik Bork:

Erik Bork is a screenwriter best known for his work on the HBO miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS and FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, for which he wrote multiple episodes, and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team. Erik has also sold series pitches (and written pilots) at NBC and FOX, worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. He teaches screenwriting for UCLA Extension, National University and The Writers Store, and offers one-on-one consulting to writers.

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