8 Steps to the Zen of Screenwriting
Updated: Mar 8, 2022
By Pamela PerryGoulardt
Zen is a disciplined practice through which one can realize the joys of being a screenwriter.
1. Free your Id, Ego, and Superego.
Screenwriters benefit from taking care of their psyches, by taking care of themselves. Screenwriters must deliver the subtle interconnected nature of all life, and they rely heavily on intuition. It is necessary to take time to nurture oneself – and hydrate. Keep a beverage handy!
“Do one thing at a time. Be more, do less.” - Anais Nin
2. Get your Mojo working.
A screenwriter’s tool kit relies on personal experience, research of facts, imagination, non-conceptual insight, and observing the mind. One strives to be aware of streams of thought, allowing them to arise and disappear without interference. To prevent blockages in your energy flow, take a deep breath. This fires up your life force.
“Honor the Muse.” - Martha Graham
3. Know the Rules of the Game.
Screenwriting is part of a Business Paradigm. It must follow the rules. You must have wit, empathy, a dash of a cynic, and be able to tell an entertaining story that gets PRODUCED and makes money.
· Your TITLE should reveal your GENRE. Genre is a sport. Fans go to football games to watch football. The story must hold true to the genre. ‘Murder on the Orient Express” is not about a train.
· It should be a HIGH CONCEPT with a fascinating core, such as: “A President famous for lying is kidnapped, but when his kidnappers call for the ransom, no one believes them." You need goals, dilemmas, high stakes, a TRANSFORMATIONAL JOURNEY character arc, something to root for(internal and external), twists, turns, surprises, and PASSION.
· Your aim must be for your TARGET AUDIENCE. If your target audience is fans of the MACABRE, the screenplay must be horrifying, filled with the hideous and grotesque.
· Give your screenplay a BUDGET and try to stick to it. CGI costs $5,000 per minute. Dogs and children are expensive. Make sure they make a contribution to the story.
· There are about 30 actors that producers will open their pocketbooks for. Make sure your characters provide for BANKABLE ACTORS. If EMMA STONE or a HOT UNKNOWN wants to attach themselves to your script, it will be produced.
“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy.” - Oprah Winfrey
4. Create a space where you can WRITE EVERY DAY.
RITUALS and SELF-DISCIPLINE foster skill. It is essential to screenwriting. Once you learn to write every day, even if it’s recording a dream, or a “TO DO” list, you have proactively empowered yourself. You will never suffer from writer’s block. There is always something to write about.
“Freedom is born of self-discipline.” -Jennifer Lopez
5. Go for the GOLD.
A screenplay can’t be GOOD, it must be the BEST. Strive for a conflict-filled path that will bring your audience to a profound emotional release. Throw in a moral choice, and you’ve got a BLOCKBUSTER!
“Do what is right, not what is easy”. - Marilyn Monroe
6. Gain support from your TRIBE.
Screenwriters share a CULTURE, with clear goals and mutual understanding. Make time to mingle with others on the same journey. In-person is best, but social media works well too.
“We are united in common goals, including equality, respect, and the right to speak our minds.” - Michelle Obama
7. Respect Your Audience.
Make sure your main character sees the world through a LENS OF EMOTION, not a lens of LOGIC. KEEP IT FRESH!
“To win, you may have to fight a battle more than once.” –
8. Develop a THICK SKIN.
The only crying in Screenwriting is if you’re writing a Birth, Death, or Wedding scene. Get out there and get feedback. If someone criticizes your work, don’t crumble like a delicate flower. Let the criticism or suggestion settle in, then make changes if it elevates your story. Remember, your screenplay must be the BEST it can possibly be. Releasing resistance to criticism, even if it’s not constructive, crushes FEAR. This is the greatest gift you can give yourself as a screenwriter. Be BOLD and FEARLESS!
“To be a player in the game, you must gain experience by being brave, taking risks, and not giving a damn what anybody thinks.” – Jane Fonda