Writing Through Solitude: Tapping into the Power of Loneliness for Screenwriting Inspiration
Guest blog by produced screenwriter Rick Hansberry. At Screenwriting Staffing, your aspirations are our priority, and we're dedicated to helping you turn those dreams into reality. We invite you to join our Free and Premium screenwriting memberships.
Day after day, we chase a dream. We know we’ve signed up for an uphill struggle, but we soldier on because our passion to create over-rides any doubt that it’ll be worth it. We chip away and put in the hours because no one is going to do it for us. So we face the blank page and blinking cursor alone as we battle and struggle against a relentless and heartless enemy - loneliness.
This month is mental health awareness month and, as writers, we live in a solitary world where loneliness lives rent free and time seems to move painfully slowly. It’s important to take care of ourselves.
Here are some ways to cope:
Make new connections
Try peer support
Be careful when comparing yourself to others
Look after yourself
Utilizing solitude as a source of inspiration is a common practice among other artists. The aim is to establish relatability, isn't it? When it comes to musicians and songwriters, a well-curated jukebox could be filled with songs that touch upon, tackle, and harness the essence of loneliness.
Just a few:
Only The Lonely
Dancing On My Own
Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely
One of my favorite ‘lonely’ songs paints an exquisite picture of the empty void we sometimes interpret as loneliness:
Excerpt from “That’s What The Lonely Is For” – David Wilcox:
Picture your hope, your heart's desire, As a castle that you must keep In all of its splendor, it's drafty with lonely This heart is too hard to heat
When I get lonely, that's only a sign Some room is empty, but that room is there by design If I feel hollow, that's just my proof that there's more For me to follow That's what the lonely is for
The sheer number of adults in the United States who feel lonely is quite large— in a survey of 10,000 adults, 61% of those surveyed said they felt lonely. However, people don’t always talk about feelings of loneliness and don’t always know what to do with these feelings.
Other than being emotionally painful, loneliness can impact people in many ways:
Depression: A study published in Lancet Psychiatry found high associations between loneliness and depressive symptoms in adults 50 years old and older. Research also shows that loneliness and depression have a tendency to feed off of and perpetuate each other.
Physical health: Several studies have linked emotional stress with depressed immunity. Other research links loneliness and depression with poorer health and well-being. Therefore, people who are experiencing loneliness are susceptible to a variety of health issues.
Physical pain: Research shows that the areas of the brain that deal with social exclusion are the same areas that process physical pain, adding a scientific explanation to the oft-romanticized experience of a "broken heart."
To combat loneliness as a writer, use some of these actions as also ways to create new and different experiences that you can then utilize in your screenplays:
Spend money on experiences. It’s R & D, right? If we spend all our money on ‘things’, thinking we’ll feel better, we’ll just want more. Retail therapy is never the answer. Use the cash to spend money on experiences with others. It’s better for our mental health. Get creative with it and think of the ‘what ifs’ of possible story premises in some of these activities: Maybe going on a canoeing trip; a wine tasting or craft beer sampling; hosting an inland beach party, or arts & crafts night.
If you don’t have one and have accommodation for one, entertain getting a pet. Pets offer so many benefits, and preventing loneliness is one of them. Rescuing a pet combines the benefits of altruism and companionship, and fights loneliness in several ways.
Studies show that interacting with dogs reduces stress, anxiety and depression, eases loneliness, encourages exercise to improve your all-around health. They also serve as tremendous examples of embracing the moment. Dogs derive excitement from the common – something as simple as a new arrival at the door or the return of a parent. It warrants a wag, a toy retrieval, a spark of adrenaline. Pets truly enjoy and appreciate the little things.
Pets can connect you with other people—walking a dog opens you up to a community of other dog-walkers, and a cute dog on a leash tends to be a people magnet. Additionally, pets provide unconditional love, which can be a great salve for loneliness.
Be careful to identify your feelings. Maybe your loneliness is really just a stage of grief. Each person grieves in different ways. Some have compared grief to snowflakes or fingerprints; each person’s grief is both personal and unique.
Grief can be a highly emotional experience; you may feel many, even contradictory, emotions such as anger, guilt, loneliness, sadness, or pining for the person who died. Your expression of grief may mirror these inner feelings through crying, rage, or withdrawal, and many people find it helpful to express and explore these emotions.
Others may grieve with less intense emotions. You or someone you love may express grief in a more cerebral way, thinking about the person often. These types of grievers may find it helpful to be active in projects such as managing a scholarship fund to honor the person who has died or crafting a character after their personality quirks. These different ways or patterns of grief are just that; they are different. No pattern is better or worse. They are simply expressions of the fact that each person copes with loss differently.
This can become problematic when there is a failure to acknowledge that people handle loss differently, even in the same family. Differences in grieving styles are simply that; they do not represent differences in the love for the person who has died. Different grieving styles do not need to be a source of conflict. In fact, complementary ways of coping can be a source of strength.
Remember the adage: This too shall pass. No matter how far back your last truly happy memory is, another awaits. Picture it. Embrace it. Know that it will happen.
Mental health is always an issue for creatives. We deal with so much rejection and disappointment in this industry. Having a community of kindred spirits and surrounding yourself with people who embrace your collaborative spirit, is paramount to a healthy mindset.
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Introduce yourself, share your story, and engage in friendly debate regarding industry-related topics!
For more information about coping with grief and loneliness, please check out our project for “All Is Well.” We are hoping to make this impactful drama to spread awareness of mental health issues and give hope to those that are struggling: https://seedandspark.com/dashboard/project/all-is-well
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Guest blog by Rick Hansberry
Rick Hansberry is an award-winning screenwriter with more than 25 years of industry experience. With several produced credits on his IMDb page, Rick has written, produced and directed several short films. 2017 saw the release of two feature-length movies, "Alienate" and "Evil In Her." 2018 brought the release of another award-winning short, "My Two O'Clock". In 2019, Rick wrote, produced and directed his first web series pilot, "Clean Slate" and delivered creative and narrative material to an Emmy-winning documentary, "This Is My Home". Watch out for new productions from Rick later in 2022, including the feature roadtrip dramedy "Baggage Claim" (with Nikki Neurohr); a short romantic comedy, "Impression" (with Brooke Vanderdonck) and a horror feature, "Crimson Shadows" (with Chloe Carroll). Many of his scripts can be found on Script Revolution: https://www.scriptrevolution.com/profiles/rick-hansberry
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