Writers Rehab is designed to be a comprehensive self-help book in the form of a 12-Step Program for writers dealing with emotional or psychological roadblocks with their writing.
You can use it as a source to deal with the numerous scenarios that face writers: being stifled creatively, running into brick walls, losing confidence, and experiencing writer’s block to the point of depression and creative collapse.
There are ways to get back on track, starting with the number 12, which is of great importance to writers.
Joseph Campbell’s 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey is the foundation of storytelling. As exemplified by Christopher Vogler in his classic work, The Writer’s Journey, Mythic Structure for Writers, the 12 Stages are laid out and clearly explained as they pertain to screenwriting. They are also applicable to novels, plays and television scripts.
However, depending on the story you’re telling, you may not need to utilize all 12 Stages. You only have to use the ones your plot needs to keep the dramatic tension going. It is, however, important to understand what each Stage means towards building your story.
Using screenplays as an example, if you were writing an epic adventure along the lines of Raiders of the Lost Ark or Lord of the Rings you would use all 12 Stages. But if your next script is an earnest drama like Little Children or Marilyn and Me, you might need only 4 or 5 of the Stages.
You would figure out which Stages would best serve the story you are telling.
Writers Rehab works much the same way in that there are 12 Steps, each dealing with a different aspect of the problems preventing all writers from writing, completing, and rewriting their scripts to be good enough to go out into the marketplace.
As with the 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey, when you read the 12 Steps in Writers Rehab, you may find that all 12 Steps are not applicable to your unique situation and personality.
For example, Step 11 is about the negative effects of being a people-pleasing writer.
Let’s say you have a wise-ass cousin or brother-in-law who likes to bust your chops about your writing career, which he perceives as lackluster. Needless to say, he’s the kind of insensitive jerk who’s never had a creative idea in his life, has no idea how the writing process works and has zero knowledge of what it means for a writer to be blocked, depressed, or feeling hopeless.
Depending on your personality, it’s very easy in situations like that to make excuses, be defensive, or just let him mess with you until he gets bored.
Step 11 would be right up your alley. But what if you are not, by nature, a people pleaser? You may feel that this Step won’t necessarily be of value to you.
And you might be right — for the moment.
But as legendary acting teacher Stella Adler liked to say, “Life intrudes,” which is a classier way of saying that shit happens.
Down the road you travel as a novelist, screenwriter, playwright or television writer, you may find yourself in a situation where you must capitulate to the ideas of a director, agent, manager, development executive, editor or producer who has the ability to get you a deal. If you don’t agree to the changes, the deal is off.
And you want that deal!
You need that deal for the money, your pride, and to make your significant other proud of you (and to shove it in the face of that obnoxious cousin or brother-in-law).
Perhaps you won’t know how to handle the confrontation. Step 11 will help you understand what to do, what not to do and most importantly, why you’re even considering being a people pleaser in this situation.
Questioning the kind of projects you’ve been writing? Scratching your head as to why they’re not generating interest? Step 8 is for you. Maybe you’ve been told by agents, editors or producers that what you’ve written is well-written, but lacks commercial appeal. If you’re a screenwriter perhaps you’ve been told your screenplays are too “indie” or too European in style, i.e., strong on character, soft on plot. Maybe your novels and plays have been viewed as old-fashioned or not edgy enough.
If that’s the case, Step 8 will motivate you to rethink your wheelhouse and appreciate the value of walking away from your comfort zone.
Does criticism and feedback rankle you? Got a bit of a superiority complex? Think that you know best?
Step 7 will give you a wake-up call and explain why you need to get your ego in check to prevent you from experiencing a major crash and burn.
Maybe you consider yourself a results-oriented person. You come from a work ethic with the understanding that if you spend a year working your butt off on a project, you should get some kind of response soon after it’s done. Unfortunately, the film/television/theater/publishing/ industries are a delayed-gratification world.
If you’ve felt the sting of getting little, if any, response to your work, Step 2 will give you another way of looking at things.
As you go through each of the 12 Steps, just as you would go through each of the 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey, process everything and act on that which can help you.
But remember: as you move forward both in your regular life and your life as a writer, things are always in motion, always changing: sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
Just as you create problems, obstacles, and complications for your characters, the future may hold setbacks, conflicts and situations currently not in your frame of reference.
But if and when they come, you’ll know where to look for help.