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Depression Is No Reason to Stop Writing That Screenplay

Guest Blog: The ability to work through adversity is key for many successful writers. Or as Winston Churchill said, ”if you’re going through Hell, keep going“

I’ve been absent from my blog for a while. I’ve been focused on writing two books for Macmillan Publishers and have also edited a script requested to be read by Spielberg’s DreamWorks.

This is fantastic and inspirational news.

Except, among it all, my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer, I lost my house due to money problems, I split up with my girlfriend and suffered a bout of depression too.

Interesting times, you might say. Yes, they have been, and thankfully they’re improving now. So, I thought it appropriate to write a new piece about the important fact of how — throughout all of these life dramas – I was still able to focus on writing, writing and more writing.

Many people I’ve met, especially those having fruitful careers in Hollywood, say that there is one huge difference between those who really want to succeed and those who just think they might want to do something good "one day".

There is, of course, the old adage of “fake it till you make it” – pretend to be as successful now as you expect to be then, whenever that might be.

But I think the main difference is this: no matter what is happening in your life you will find some time, either three or four times a week or every day if you’re that lucky, to do the main creative project you are born to do. The one thing that makes your life feel worthwhile. The one thing that makes you you.

This might be writing a script, editing a movie, composing a score, acting in a short, painting a picture or simply fixing the squeaky hinge on a door of a set on sound stage 5. Whatever it is, the key is to make it your focus and do it. Even if you feel like it’s the biggest, hardest, most impossible task you have right now, still do it.

As Sir Winston Churchill famously said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Let’s take the amazing journalist and polemicist Christopher Hitchens as an example here. He managed to turn in an article for Variety magazine a day or so before he died of cancer.

"Mad Men" actor Jon Hamm has admitted to suffering from chronic depression. Ashley Judd, Jim Carrey, Richard Dreyfuss, Alan Alda, Kirsten Dunst, Owen Wilson, Zac Braff, Anne Hathaway and many more of today’s inspirational celebrities have admitted to having their own experiences with depression.

And how about Abraham Lincoln: he had many nervous breakdowns in his life, still managing to become the most famous President in American history. As well as being mentally ill, for him to carry on with “his story” he had to also endure the ill-fated medical cures of the day such as excessive blood drawing, induced vomiting, starvation and drinking mercury poisoning.

Yet he still carried on.  His story went onwards.

And that is the real key and what I’m saying here. Despite any diversity, if you want to succeed you will, at some point, stop making excuses and get on with it.

If you happen to be a writer you will be more than familiar with procrastination, low self-esteem and avoidance of actually doing the writing you want to do. You’ll go rake the front lawn again – even if you only did it yesterday – just to put off writing and finishing your story.

But, how about this: don’t.

Even if your life and thoughts are distracting you so much you can’t seem to find the will or time to write some words, just stop.

Stop what you’re doing for a second and ask yourself this, admittedly heavy, but mind-focusing question: if I knew I was going to die in three years time, what would I like my life to be like now and what would I want my friends to remember me for?

I don’t suggest asking yourself that question every day, it is in itself anxiety inducing, making you feel you have to rush, rush, rush to get your life done and success achieved this very minute.

But occasionally a faltering, excuse-making, even lazy mind can do with a big nudge. A wake up call that makes you ask yourself the real question: how much do I want this, how much do I want to finish my story?

If your answer is that you’re already sat down writing your story, then you’re already succeeding. 

Anthony Burt is a writer, journalist and voice-over artist from south west England, U.K. Founder of Epic Creations, for the past eight years he has written and edited books, scripts and magazine/newspaper articles for the BBC, the Guardian, Macmillan, Harpercollins, Parragon and Haymarket. He's a passionate film fan who believes in chasing your dreams, so is temporarily based in L.A. pursuing a screenwriting career at the same time as writing a new novel (and getting a Californian suntan).

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