8 Somewhat Unusual New Year's Screenwriting Resolutions for 2015
Structuring and developing a screenplay is hard enough, but finding the inspiration to even begin writing is a whole other beast to conquer. In fact, that was the beast that has been gnawing on my bones for the past 12 months, which made me realize something as I watched fireworks exploding in the sky on New Year's: I'm dealing with a whole new set of screenwriting problems than I was last year. So now that we're finally in 2015, I thought it'd be a good idea to reevaluate where we are as screenwriters, find out what our weaknesses are, and make the resolutions that'll make this year our best screenwriting year yet!
I will allow myself to be miserable
Winter in the Pacific Northwest can be such a beautiful time of year -- it can be, but it usually isn't. It's grey and soggy and perfect for someone looking to disappear into misery for three long, illness-ridden months, but the benefit to living in a place that can get so -- ugh -- gross, is that you can turn that emotional distress into narrative energy.
So, instead of trying to look on the bright side of things, having an optimistic attitude, and bottle-feeding that little spark of joy you got from the holidays, maybe try to put those morose feelings to good use: get inside the mind of a depressed character, write a noir, learn the language of your ennui and despondency, earn their trust, breed with their women. In time your differences will be forgotten.
I will put myself in situations that make me feel like I'm going to die
Walking alone through Bed-Stuy at 1am, being on the 405 for any length of time, eating at that questionable Korean restaurant with fly traps dangling over the range: these are things I've done in the last few months that reminded me not only that, yes, death is a thing and, yes, I have to deal with it, but that life is also a thing, and I should be living it.
After all, we write what we know, so it's good to fill up your brain with new experiences. (If you've never been on the 405 and almost starved to death while waiting in traffic, try it. Then write about it.)
I will stop being such a filmmaker
I talk about movies, directors, film movements, and Jean-Luc Godard way too much. I watch tons of great movies every week. I read lots and lots of screenplays. I learn and study cinema constantly. I do so many film-centric things that sometimes I forget that the world is full of other incredible subjects -- subjects that can actually help me when I write. Learning all you can about other things, like psychology, sociology, the Kowloon Walled City, and Umberto Billo can not only help you have more control over your content, but it'll inspire brand new stories, too.
I will live a more kaleidoscopic life
It's easy to get stuck in a rut, to let routines take over your life. Though this kind of lifestyle has its purpose, I know that for me personally it kills my imagination. In this season of my life, I'm going to make things more random, chaotic, colorful, and varied -- everything from hopping on a plane to a place that doesn't have an international airport to not ordering the same damn thing at the same damn restaurant I go to every damn Wednesday afternoon.
If you have the same proclivity to nestle inside an aging groove and want to get out, I can tell you that the results thus far, for me, have been incredible.
I will shut the f**k up
It's simple. Shut up and listen, V. I've learned so much from just hearing what other people have to say, and I don't just mean stories, but opinions, emotional responses, verbiage, and more. And shutting up isn't just about being quiet; it's about being observant. I try to notice the little things, like what kinds of cars are owned by the people in my neighborhood, how different people decorate their houses, and which non-fiction books people are reading at the cafe I go to. (Seriously, why is everyone obsessed with non-fiction?)
Take notes of what you learn and use them in your screenplay. It'll make it all the more authentic and multi-dimensional.
I will be a friend to everyone (and anyone)
I'm pretty shy and get a little nervous when I have to talk to people I don't know. But it's does your writing good to meet people and make friends -- even those alcohol-induced bar best friends (BBFs) that you plan to travel Europe with, but never speak to again after closing time. You'll never know what role these people will play in your life -- probably not much of one -- but there's always a chance that they could help you in your literary quest, whether by introducing you to someone in the industry or telling you an amazing story that you'll make into your award-winning screenplay.
I will stop being the Wilt Chamberlain of screenwriting
I love writing scripts like Wilt the Stilt loved women -- so much and with zero commitment. I love starting new stories, but I just can't "put a ring on it," because -- I love starting new stories! But, I'm trying to start the New Year off right by hanging up my philanderous ways and getting serious about that one special screenplay -- at least until I finish it -- then I'll move on to the next one. (Don't judge.)
I will see a therapist
One great screenwriting lesson I learned in 2014 actually came from none other than Ryan Koo -- and it's a little unorthodox. He told me, essentially, that taking time to work out your own personal issues can help you work out those of your characters. If we go back to the "write what you know" axiom, how can you begin to take your hero through his/her journey when you haven't taken yourself through yours? A good example would be, say, trying to write about a character gets over a hard breakup while you're still curled up on the couch in grease-stained sweatpants watching (500) Days of Summer, eating wings from Pizza Hut for the fourth night in a row, and trying to convince yourself that you hate adorkable girls. (You don't! They're adorable and they're dorks! Deal with it.)
What screenwriting resolutions have you made for 2015? Let us know in the comments below!