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By Randal Stevens · May 10, 2010
Centuries ago, some guy who lived alone in the desert made up the Seven Deadly Sins to justify his importance to the Church. Just now, I made up the Seven Deadly Consequences to justify (perhaps futilely) my importance to this blog. The Seven Deadly Consequences are just like the Sins, but are not actions; they are reactions. Specifically, the Consequences are reactions that occur when you should be writing, but you’re not. They won’t have any effect on your immortal soul, but they come with equivalent amounts of crushing guilt! This first entry is focusing on the Consequence of envy.
Well, this one should be pretty obvious. People always want what they can’t or don’t have. Some people will go to extremes and do just about anything it takes to satisfy the insatiable. On the other hand, others won’t do anything except for stew on and brood over the things they want, allowing their desires to build up to Gollum-esque proportions. Hollywood’s entire foundation is built upon envy and the cyclical, re-affirming pattern of manufacturing glamour to an audience that all too eagerly will pay – financially and otherwise – to justify the illusion. Hollywood not only keeps audiences coming back with the envy it feeds them, it also sucks in the aspiring employees. As hopeful screenwriters, we’ve all heard the rare yet alluring tales of the first-time or unknown writers whose first screenplay sold for a bundle or attracted them enough attention to kick start a prosperous career.
If you’re not writing, you are undoubtedly envious of those who are. If you see screenwriting as a race against the tens of thousands of others who are trying to make it as writers, then you are losing that race with every day that goes by without writing. You’ll, of course, be envious of the John Augusts and Eric Roths who are paid handsomely for their realized scripts, but you’ll also be envious of the friends who get their scripts optioned, of the colleagues whose scripts take top prizes at screenplay competitions and to a lesser degree, of the friends who are just improving their skills by working at it day after day, even if their scripts never get any farther than their shelves. The person with twelve unsold, unread yet completed scripts, is lapping the person with one uncompleted script, no matter how vivid the idea behind it.
Now, let’s be honest with ourselves – every aspiring screenwriter admires John August and Eric Roth for their success if not for the quality of their work. The harm in envy, however, will not necessarily manifest itself in those far off cases. Instead, envy will get to work against those who are closest to you – friends, co-workers, classmates – that are achieving what you are not. That friend with whom you enjoy laughing at bad B-horror movies? You’ll find the laughs coming a lot harder when you think about how he’s completed three screenplays and you haven’t completed one yet. That classmate with whom you bonded over your opinion on Alien 3 being an under-appreciated masterpiece? You’ll find yourself disagreeing with her a lot more when she comes to you with her fifth screenplay.
You see, similar to greed, envy is characterized by insatiable desire, but unlike greed, envy implies that you also resent that another person has something that you perceive yourself as lacking and you wish that person to be deprived of it. Spite accompanies envy and spite is a miracle worker when it comes to ruining relationships. The more you write, the more you grow and growing together can strengthen relationships both personal and professional. More than that, if you keep writing, you’ll build confidence in yourself and help re-affirm that you’re writing for the proper reasons. Money is a big instigator when it comes to envy and it’s important to make sure you’re writing because you love to write as opposed to because you want to make money. There are easier and less painful ways to make money than by trying to make it in screenwriting so the pursuit of envy in that case when lead to much worse.
How to Avoid the Consequence of Envy
Do yourself a favor and check out the documentary, Tales from the Script, which I mentioned in my very first blog post. The insight into screenwriting from some of the best and most successful writers in the game is invaluable when it comes to making sure your priorities for writing lie in the right place, which can be a wake up call for some and a push in the right direction for others.
Also, just do some writing. These are consequences, after all, and a consequence can only occur when something hasn’t been done or been done wrong.