Being a professional writer in Hollywood is not easy. There are countless obstacles on the road to success: finding representation, turning in a rewrite by a seemingly impossible deadline, battling LA traffic to make it to your next meeting on time! But did you ever consider the biggest obstacle standing in the way of your dreams may be you? I’m talking about self-sabotage, that unconscious destructive behavior that fills your mind with critical self-doubt, undermines your confidence, and can wreak havoc on your writing career.
Here are some destructive behaviors all screenwriters need to look out for and tips on how to nip them in the bud:
1. I’ll finish my screenplay…tomorrow.
Writers can be master procrastinators. Have you ever found yourself saying, “I don’t feel inspired right now” or “I could finish this draft, or I could deep dive my ex’s Instagram account for the next two hours.” Instead of using your valuable time and energy to write, you are using it to come up with ways to avoid doing the work. This is a sure fire way to end up worn out with nothing to show for it. Get yourself out of the procrastination rut by finding someone to help you set goals and stick to them. Create an accountability system with a fellow writer. Having to report your progress to someone else, especially someone who is striving towards their goals alongside you, can sometimes be all the motivation you need to keep your head down and get the work done. Looking for more inspiration? Check out my posts on ‘How to Stay on Track with your Writing Goals’ and ‘4 Ways to Break Through Writers Block’.
2. I’m a talented writer…but I’ll never be worthy of success.
Too many writers I meet have the talent to be successful but can’t get past that inner critic telling them they are a fraud. That feeling of self-doubt and lack of ability despite evidence that you are skilled and successful is known as “Imposter Syndrome” and left unchecked it can leave you constantly searching for proof that you are doomed for failure: a show pops up on Netflix that seems similar to the show you’re about to pitch to a major network, you now feel like pitching it is a waste of time. You get a note in a writers group that would mean a huge rewrite to your screenplay, so you stop sharing your work altogether. I know a number of successful writers who secretly harbor the “imposter syndrome," but they’ve figured out how to ignore those thoughts. So push past feeling like a fraud and see your negative thoughts for what they are, fears. Not reality. Whether its affirmations, meditation, or journaling out your negative feelings, do what you need to do to take away that inner critic’s power over you. Only you can decide to stop diminishing yourself.
3. I’m so busy… I don’t have time for my writing or… myself.
Life, especially in Los Angeles, can get filled with obligations fast. Often obligations that don’t serve us: We say yes to parties we don’t want to go to, coffee runs that don’t fall under our job description, and dinner with friends that we can’t afford. Don’t get me wrong, friends and family are important, but when you put everything and everyone before your own needs there aren’t many emotional or physical resources left to devote to your career. Stop people-pleasing and do what’s necessary to protect your most valuable asset: you. Set boundaries with people in your life. If confrontation scares you, start with small actions, like turning your phone off for an hour while you write, and move up to larger ones, like canceling plans with friends when you have to meet a deadline. Those that truly support you and your ambitions will understand. Trying to apply this principle to your day job? Read my post on ‘Secrets to Balancing Your Screenwriting Tips with your Day Job’.
What are your favorite ways of overcoming self-sabotage? Let me know @CaroleKirsch!