Thursday, October 05, 2006

Coping with Stress

“Keep working. Stay positive. Keep focused. Believe in yourself and your talent.”

We’re all familiar with these platitudes and they do help to keep the required energy and momentum going to sustain the constant battle to build a scriptwriting career. However, you’re only human. We can’t live life on a linear track of enthusiasm and optimism. With every up, there is a down, and with every surge of euphoria over a positive response, there is a wave of disappointment from the latest rejection.

Picking yourself up with the usual platitudes can feel empty and pointless. This can lead to a trench of stress and frustration which can prove difficult to climb out of in order to charge towards that battle line once again.

So, how do we cope? How do we rid these screenwriting blues and get on the positive track once more? Here are a few ways:

The tried and tested comfort for the beleaguered writer. Alcohol conveniently provides a dual purpose for social indulgence: drink when you’ve got good news, drink when you’ve got bad news. It can also help to perk you up at your computer when you’re flagging at the end of the day. It’s no wonder that a lot of writers have drinking problems. The temptation to go to the pub at lunch and just stay there is an urge that must be resisted. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to be said for just ‘getting pissed’ (in normal social hours) to alleviate the stress and disappointment of a recent rejection. However, if you’ve got a bottle of whiskey on your desk at 10am, seek some help.

No-one feels or understands your writer-pain better than another writer. They have the strongest empathy because they’re in the exact same position as you. They know what it’s like, the effort it takes, and how the rejections completely suck. They understand the creative impetus that burns in your very soul. Buy them lunch and let loose about that inept script editor or exec. Even better, the writer may buy you lunch to help ease your stress. If you can’t meet the writer, email them for a general chat. Better still, start a blog and rant all you like. Chilling out (getting drunk) with friends or your husband, girlfriend/boyfriend/partner works on a similar vibe.

In the immortal words of Zammo: Just Say No. Personally, I’m not very good with this kind of recreation, it does little to help me relax or feel elated. But you know, it works for some people, so whatever rocks your boat. But Zammo knows best.

Are you so angry you just got to scream, shout and hit something? Whoa there big fella. Don’t do it in your office, you’ll end up with a broken computer and a smashed screen, and that’s not going to help is it? You’ll just end up out of pocket. The urge to smash items that are intrinsically linked to the focus of your anger can be strong but you need to remove it, and unleash your frustration on something else. Go out the back, hang up that dusty rug and give it a good bash while you curse every intern, script editor and exec who has dared to deem your work not good enough.

A more positive alternative to the violent rage option. Loud music is a winner. Shouting the lyrics is a great release too. A personal stereo is a bit more introspective but can provide the lift that’s needed as you listen to your favourite tracks.

Music and exercise would be ideal, but exercise by itself is naturally good. Don’t like the gym? Can’t swim? You can walk can’t you? A sprightly twenty minute turn around the block will clear your head (and the personal stereo will work wonders with this). Fresh air invigorates the body, feeds the brain. Get out. Walk it off.

Now. Feel better? Good. Keep working. Stay positive. Keep focused. Believe in yourself and your talent. You’ll get there.


Dominic Carver said...

When I eventually buy a bigger place, bigger than the tin can I live in at the moment, I'm going to buy a punch bag, hang it from the ceiling and beat the living shit out of it when ever I feel the rage coming on.

James Moran said...

Meeting other writers is the best thing ever. There's a shorthand there, and nobody will slag you off for having a moan, because we all want to have one too.

I second the punchbag. Had a go on a mate's once, it was magic. Better than smashing the flat up, because it doesn't break.

If I'm feeling nervous about a meeting, I usually stick on the headphones and listen to Rage Against The Machine all the way until I get there, gets me all riled up and energised. You have to remember to not shout and swear at the people you're meeting, though.

Anonymous said...

James: Why not? Don't they expect that from us bohemian types?? ; )

You fucking rock Danny. Needed this today.

Schmucks with Underwoods said...

I meditate :-) Makes me realize that in the grand scheme of things my scribblings and earthly aspirations for creative succes are but an illusion, failing that I find a good rant and moan with another writer can do wonders for the soul ;-)

English Dave said...

In the immortal words of Homer J Simpson

'Ah alcohol, the cause and the cure of all the world's ills'

When I'm at my best I find that exercise and routine fires the imagination and gets the pages churned out.

When I'm at my worst 6 cans of Stella and a crappy afternoon movie seems to hit the spot. I don't get a lot of writing done on those days but it guilts me into doubling my efforts the next day.

Tim Woods said...

i have to admit i am a firm abuser of alcohol when writing. it's not unusual for me to crack open something drunky within two minutes of getting up. and i have often had bottles of scotch on the go by ten a.m. but, it's working out for me so far and on days i'm not writing i don't drink and i don't miss it or anything, so i'm not worried yet.

i'd rather be a drunk than talk to other people, writers or not.

do like going for a good walk, though.

mark g said...

You seem to have overlooked compulsive masturbation.

Irons out a few wrinkles.

Stephen Gallagher said...

A dog and a walk in the woods with a pocket tape machine to hand.

Does it for me every time.

Danny Stack said...

Thank you for the perfect image of a writer in the throes of bashing out a story.

I'm not saying which, Mark or Stephen.

Anonymous said...


...Hanging out with dogs when everyone knows cats rule?? Stephen, you should be ashamed of yourself.

; )

potdoll said...

Hi Danny,

Thought I'd introduce myself being as it was your blog that got me addicted to reading blogs in the first place.

I find squeezing spots and the odd spot of Amazon shopping does it for me!

James Henry said...

I go for a swim in a local hotel pool three times a week, first thing in the morning, and it does wonders. Splashing up and down the pool, feeling pleasantly disassociated from everything, and all the images and storylines you want start bubbling up to the surface.

And then you can have a massive cooked breakfast at the open air cafe on the way home, yum.

Tim Clague said...

If you drink a pint of water very quickly you kind of hyper-ventilate and go giddy. Its good for a giggle - and FREE!*

Try it! It'll help take the pain away. Best overall course of action is still to quit writing and get a 'proper' job.

*If you use tap water.

Danny Stack said...

Hello Potdoll! Love your new blog. Cheers.

the englishman said...

A stepladder. Two sponges. A rubber glove. A tin of alphabet spaghetti.

Unknown said...


Your idea of stress relieving sounds different and interesting to me.

Developing good habits will also help in controlling stress. Bad habits will drive people into stressed mood. One should know how to avoid them otherwise they will consume happiness of our life.