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The Fifth Consequence of Screenwriting: Wrath

By Randal Stevens · June 4, 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 fifth entry is focusing on the Consequence of wrath.

 

Your screenplay about the robot super spy from the future who saves the world from Armageddon triggered by the love-child he fostered with a dinosaur isn’t going very well, isn’t it? It’s now been months since you’ve written anything and you’re beginning to forget what the amazing twist at the end of Act II was (hint: he was ____ the whole time!). As the days go by and the inspiration grows cold, there are changes occurring within and without you. No, your voice isn’t cracking and you’re not sprouting a mangrove below the belt (though if you are, welcome to adulthood – it sucks here), but your feelings about yourself and the people around you are starting to sour. While you were once easygoing and approachable, now you’re often flustered and prone to snapping. You’re being overcome with anger, also known as rage, also known as wrath, also known as “fuck you, my script about the robot super spy from the future who saves the world from Armageddon triggered by the love-child he fostered with a dinosaur is so much better than your introspective, character-driven indie drama, motherfucker.”

 

Now, I’m not so foolish as to infer that if you’re not writing you’ll become a crotchety asshole (you may be one even if you are writing), but I guarantee that your mindset about yourself and the world around you will shift if you want to write and you’re not writing. Wrath is described as “inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of anger” and is closely linked with jealousy. If you have friends or colleagues who are growing in they’re writing while you’re sitting on the couch scouring the Internet for the pilot episode of McG’s American “Spaced” remake, then jealously will develop. Jealousy, like the infection you got in your big toe from kicking your TV after the series finale of “Lost,” can be prevented if tended to quickly. If you don’t address your being jealous at your friend, then you’ll quickly grow angry at your friend. If you don’t address your being angry at your friend, then you’ll quickly grow wrathful.

 

Wrath is sort of like a pair of dark glasses obscuring your vision and when you’re so incredibly angry with someone, you misinterpret all their actions. Back in the day when you and your friend would do gravity bong hits and stay up until 4 a.m. scribbling down ideas on single-ply toilet paper about how to improve each other’s screenplays, you saw it as camaraderie and rapport. Nowadays, that friend has written seven screenplays and you interpret any advice as pretentious snobbery, any pride on their part as arrogance and you’re no longer able to view their good ideas as anything but terrible. Eventually, perhaps, you strike out at that person and incite a feud for no good reason. Soon your friend is no longer your friend and after a while, you’ve forgotten why, erasing the time you spent together and holding onto only the anger that you feel is somehow justified.

 

But that’s not all. Wrath can be internal as well as external, leading to self-destructiveness. You won’t necessarily become a self-loathing alcoholic who cries alone in an empty bathtub after self-flagellating (you may do that even if you are writing), but you won’t necessarily develop pride in yourself either. After all, you’ll have nothing of which to be proud. At the end of the day, all your anger really stems from the fact that you’ve left yourself down.

 

How to Avoid the Consequence of Wrath

Pick up a hobby; aside from screenwriting, I mean. If you’re going to seriously pursue writing, it’s good to have something that will help you decompress and get your mind off things for a little bit. It’s not healthy to wrap your life too tightly around one activity. If you’re not going to seriously pursue writing, then having a hobby will help distract you from your jealousy anger. If you’re sitting in front of the TV watching well-written shows and films, you’re just going to be reminded of the things you’re not doing. Go for a job, join a poker league, sign up for a cooking class – do something that will take your mind off things.

 

But if you have chosen to be a serious writer, then just write. Writing can be a drug. Writing can get you high. Writing can be a sedative. If you’re writing – seriously writing – you won’t be angry at yourself and you won’t be angry at those around you. If you’re still full of wrath, then either A) something is wrong with you psychologically or B) you’re just a terrible writer. That, however, has not stopped Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.