Keys to the Craft: Live Life

November 30th, 2012 by

If you want to learn the craft of screenwriting, here are five practices you need to adopt:

Think Concepts. Watch Movies. Read Scripts. Write Pages. Live Life.

Monday, I wrote about Think Concepts.

Tuesday: Watch Movies.

Wednesday: Read Scripts.

Thursday: Write Pages.

Today: Live Life.

Some words of wisdom on the subject from writers:

“Learn where you came from, who you are, and where you are going. Travel in healthy and intelligent company. Immerse yourself in music. Enjoy good food and learn how to prepare it yourself. Take full responsibility for your own behavior. Live skillfully. And never watch television.” — Russell Chatham

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, and look around you.” — Leo Tolstoy

“Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.” — Catherine Drinker Bowen

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” — Henry David Thoreau

“If you just define yourself as a screenwriter, and you have a bad day as a screenwriter, then that’s your whole world. You’re building your life on this very singular pylon. It’s important to remember that you’re a brother or a father or a boyfriend, and also that you have interests and hobbies that feed you and nourish you, and bring ideas in and balance you out. If I have a bad day screenwriting, I can come out to my studio, and I can paint and connect with myself. It’s important to build a broad life that feeds you, that nourishes you, that gives you stability.” — Joe Forte

By living life fully, we collect experiences, memories, voices, moments, feelings, all the things we need to write.

By living life, we intersect with an endless stream of possible stories, each person, each minute rife with narrative possibilities.

By living life, we feed our mind, our heart, our soul, our creativity.

Every year, Hollywood cycles through over 30,000 story submissions. 99% of them lack emotional depth or human truth. They may be well-structured. They may have a decent story concept. They may be stylistically impressive. But if they don’t generate a point of connection and resonance with a reader, characters who lift up off the page as vital, unique, alive individuals, that script will likely result in a pass.

Hollywood buyers want to feel something when they read a script. To get there in your writing, you need to live life.

Joseph Campbell said it very well:

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances without own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Think concepts. Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages. All important. But it’s also imperative that we, as writers, live life fully… deeply… intensely.

Live. Life.

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