That sinking feeling means you’re gaining ground.
As I dig into screenplays on a couple of projects this summer, I’m reminded that storytelling is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.
Every writer knows that the first draft of anything is usually crap, but facing up to and owning that crap requires nerves of steel.
My friend and former mentor, the late Blake Snyder, relatably relays this rollercoaster in Chapter Seven of his seminal screenwriting guide, “Save The Cat:”
"You’ve finished! And yet even though you’re a proud parent, you’re starting to have a few nagging doubts about this creation of yours. Some parts of your script don’t work, you know that. And some parts, you think secretly, might be a train wreck. But having put your script aside for about a week, which I recommend (longer if you can stand it), you now come back to that glorious hatchling, read it over from start to finish… and are suddenly struck dumb. It’s awful!!! Characters are flat! Nothing happens or happens so slowly you can’t believe a human being wrote it and not some mental patient. What were you thinking? You’re not done! You haven’t even started! What’s worse, now that you know the awful truth, now that you realize how bad you are at this, you don’t even want to keep going."
Not only should you keep going, but you should celebrate your dissatisfaction when you look back upon what you’ve wrought and think to yourself, “It’s not good enough.” That humbling moment of clarity doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. Quite the opposite: it’s a sign that you’re getting better.
As I regularly remind my students (and myself):
"Creation is a process, and dissatisfaction is essential to that process. When you look upon completed projects with dissatisfaction, it’s because you now see that they could have been better. That recognition is the first step towards making them better next time, and you will because now you’re better. And when you look upon work-in-progress with dissatisfaction, that means you’re on the cusp of being able to take things to the next level before the cement has dried. Instead of soothing your pain with a new shiny object, analyze what’s not working with your newly-improved eye and then leap back into the fray."
The good news is that the final result will be better for it. The bad news is that you’ll still eventually be dissatisfied with it. But the objective reality is that this is a sign of your continual improvement: you’re better… and you’re on the right path.
So, get back to work!
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