Avoid procrastination

Sometimes we invent stories, often brilliant stories, to avoid something in our lives. To get on with what you should be doing, it helps to see these excuses for what they are, just stories.

Avoid procrastination
photo credit: HannaPritchett via photopin cc

One of my favorite forms of resistance is sitting down to write and suddenly getting an idea for another screenplay—a much better idea, an idea so unique, so original, so exciting, you wonder what you’re doing writing this screenplay. You really think about it. You may even get two or three “better” ideas. It happens quite often; it may be a great idea, but it’s still a form of resistance! If it’s really a good idea, it will keep. Simply write it up in a page or two, put it in a file marked “New Projects,” and file it away. If you decide to pursue this new idea and abandon the original project, you’ll discover the same thing happening; When you sit down to write, you’ll get another new idea, and so on and so on. It’s a form of resistance; a mind trip, a way of avoiding writing. We all do it. We’re masters at creating reasons and excuses not to write; it’s simply a barrier to the creative process. So, how do you deal with it? Simple. If you know it’s going to happen, simply acknowledge it when it does. When you’re cleaning the refrigerator, sharpening pencils, or eating, just know that’s what you’re doing: experiencing resistance! It’s no big thing. Don’t put yourself down, feel guilty, feel worthless, or punish yourself in any way. Just acknowledge the resistance—then move right through to the other side. Just don’t pretend it’s not happening. It is! Once you deal with your resistance, you’re ready to start writing.

Syd Field. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting.

‘Since childhood you’ve heard, ‘Don’t believe everything you read.’ When we read about celebrities in the tabloids, we know that many of the stories are false or misleading. Some are exaggerated for effect, others are made up entirely. Now some celebrities take this in their stride; they accept it as part of being famous and don’t let it get to them. When they notice ridiculous stories about themselves, they just shrug it off. They certainly don’t waste their time reading, analysing and discussing them! Other celebrities, though, get very upset about these stories. They read them and dwell on them, rant and complain, and lodge lawsuits (which are stressful and eat up a lot of time, energy and money).

‘Defusion allows us to be like the first set of celebrities: the stories are there, but we don’t take them seriously. We don’t pay them much attention, and we certainly don’t waste our time and energy trying to fight them. In ACT we don’t try to change, avoid or get rid of the story. We know how ineffective that is. Instead we simply acknowledge: ‘This is a story.’

Russ Harris. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling, Start Living

Use the Language, Luke

Language, like the Force in Star Wars, has a dark side. We have to learn to use it to our advantage, rather than let it use us.

Use the language Luke

Luke Skywalker attacks the “Death Star,” a manmade fortress as huge as a planet. But it’s not fully constructed. A vulnerable slot lies open on one side of the sphere. Luke must not only attack into the slot, but hit a vulnerable spot within it. He’s an expert fighter pilot but tries without success to hit the spot. As he maneuvers his craft by computer, he hears the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Go with the Force, go with the Force.”

‘A sudden dilemma of irreconcilable goods: the computer versus the mysterious “Force.” He wrestles with the anguish of choice, then pushes his computer aside, flies by instinct into the slot, and fires a torpedo that hits the spot. The destruction of the Death Star climaxes the film, a straight action out of the Crisis.’

Robert McKee. Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

‘We cannot appreciate the human dilemma if we do not see the nature and speed of human progress clearly. Human misery can be understood only in the context of human achievement, because the most important source of each is the same: human symbolic activity. To borrow a phrase from the Star Wars trilogy, language is truly “The Force” in human progress. It is so enormously influential in human affairs because it has such a bright side.

‘But The Force has a dark side too. Psychotherapists know that side well. This dual nature of human language impacts not just at the level of the group—the human species or human civilization—but also at the level of the individual. Each individual has experienced both the bright and the dark side of The Force. To ask an individual human being to challenge the nature and role of language in his or her own behavior is tantamount to asking a carpenter to question the general utility of a hammer. But hammers are not good for everything, and language is not good for everything either. We must learn to use language without being consumed by it. We must learn to manage it rather than having it manage us. We must learn to overcome the dark side.’

Steven C. Hayes, Kirk D. Strosahl & Kelly G. Wilson. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change.

Developing character – in fiction and life

To create great characters, writers need to understand their own thoughts and feelings first.

Story by Robert McKeeWe all share the same crucial human experiences. Each of us is suffering and enjoying, dreaming and hoping of getting through our days with something of value. As a writer, you can be certain that everyone coming down the street toward you, each in his own way, is having the same fundamental human thoughts and feelings that you are. This is why when you ask yourself, “If I were this character in these circumstances, what would I do?” The honest answer is always correct. You would do the human thing. Therefore, the more you penetrate the mysteries of your own humanity, the more you come to understand yourself, the more you are able to understand others.

Robert McKee. Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting.

Often many people we meet in our daily lives seem to have it all. They seem happy. They look satisfied with their lives. You’ve probably had the experience of walking down the street when you’re having a particularly bad day, and you’ve looked around and thought, “Why can’t I just be happy like everyone around me? They don’t suffer from chronic panic (or depression, or a substance abuse problem). They don’t feel as if a dark cloud is always looming over their heads. They don’t suffer the way I suffer. Why can’t I be like them?”

Here’s the secret: They do and you are. We all have pain. All human beings, if they live long enough, have felt or will feel the devastation of losing someone they love. Every single person has felt or will feel physical pain. Everybody has felt sadness, shame, anxiety, fear, and loss. We all have memories that are embarrassing, humiliating, or shameful. We all carry painful hidden secrets. We tend to put on shiny, happy faces, pretending that everything is okay, and that life is “all good.” But it isn’t and it can’t be. To be human is to feel pain in ways that are orders of magnitude more pervasive than what the other creatures on planet Earth feel.

Steven C. Hayes and Spencer Smith. Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.