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The Seventh Deadly Sin of Screenwriting: Lust

By Randal Stevens · June 21, 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 seventh and final entry is focusing on the Consequence of lust.

 

I purposefully saved the Consequence of lust for last not because I find it to be the most serious, but because for weeks I was struggling to think of a sensible application for a Consequence that is so specific in its definition. You see, lust is typically defined as excessive thoughts or desires of a sexual nature; or, more generally, excessive love of others to the point of assuming a self-indulgent character. This, as you can see, is incredibly specific in the sense that lust seems to require the presence and subsequent focused desire of another person. Because of this, lust, unlike the other Consequences, is an island amongst itself and doesn't really overlap into other Consequences such as greed with gluttony and envy with wrath.

 

So how could lust possibly apply to you, Lazy McSlacker, who gave up on his or her 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? It's not as though giving up on writing will automatically result in uncontrollable thoughts about motor boating the breasts of every woman you walk by in a low-cut tank top or V-neck sweater; or, for the ladies, thoughts about jackhammering the johnson of any well-endowed stud (even if you are writing frequently, you may find your pants on the floor with Keifer Sutherland-like frequency). Well, here's what I've come up with and bear with me if you see the connection as thin or nonsensical.

 

What is the one sexual act that is exclusively connected with self-indulgence and almost always catalyzed by an excessive desire for someone else? Masturbation, of course. Now, we could sit here and debate the semantics of what masturbation entails for a while, but I think we can all agree that at the end of it, very little has actually been accomplished. If you're sexually tense or frustrated, masturbation will do very little to help alleviate that. In the same vein (hopefully), if you have a dream to be a writer of any kind – screenwriter, novelist, journalist, etc. – then anything and everything else you will do besides writing is strictly mentally jerking off. If you want to write but you're putting it off by watching TV, taking a nap, talking on the phone or merely thinking about writing, then you are getting nothing accomplished. You're spinning your wheels, running in place, going through the motions of figurative sex while not actually getting one step closer to sex. There is, of course, the danger that giving up writing will fill you with a void that you may try to fill with pornography. I mean, let's be honest – everybody loves pornography, right? But that danger, I feel, is second fiddle to the idea that if you have aspirations upon which you're not acting, then your activities and dreams are as useless as masturbation.

 

Do you recall that scene in Adaptation where that super cute redheaded waitress is taking off her shirt for Charlie only for the scene to cut away and reveal that it's just a fantasy of a masturbating Charlie? I think that scene is significant on a surface level to show just how far Charlie has gotten from motivated, but it's also a significant metaphor on that state he's in for not writing.

 

How to Avoid the Consequence of Lust

If there is one piece of advice that is applicable for avoiding and/or overcoming each and every one of these Consequences, it's to stop whatever the hell it is you're wasting your time on and just write. Write anything at any time. Scribble down rough ideas in a notebook, write some short films, begin a treatment for a feature idea you have, fire up Final Draft and put down that first scene. Get a schedule going. Even if you're only writing for 5 – 10 minutes a day, you'll at least develop some consistency and the more you write, the more you'll want to write. These seven entries after all have been consequences and a consequence can only follow something that has been done wrong and writing, with few exceptions, is hardly ever wrong.