If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably aware that I work as a script consultant who specializes in connecting writers to the deep story they’re passionate about telling.
What you may not know, however, is that I have additionally almost completed my training as a Core Energetics therapist. Core Energetics is a form of body-based therapy that uses movement and voice to help clients access deep, frozen feelings and thereby empowers them to have greater access to their fullest selves.
In the past few months, I have been combining Core Energetics with my script consultation work to help writers bypass their heads and instead connect to their projects on a deeper, emotional level. I have so often found that writers tend to get intellectually preoccupied with getting their scripts “right” – i.e. using their minds to try to figure out their script’s structure and proper execution – and that this furious mental activity oftentimes blocks the organic creative flow that would otherwise allow their voice to come truly alive on the page. Introducing writers to Core Energetics techniques has helped them to get out of that destructive headspace and into their bodies to a place of deeper creative truth and self-expression. It’s been incredibly inspiring and liberating work for both my clients and me.
It has also placed a huge spotlight on an extremely powerful creative truth: writers develop and write stories that in some way force them to face their own personal conflicts on the page.
This is something I had noticed in a roundabout way in my standard script consultation work for quite some time: I had observed that long-time clients would routinely return to the same kinds of themes and heroic struggles in each script regardless of the genre, and that these themes in some way served as a reflection of their own personal life. I had likewise seen how writers’ blocks around a particular project in some way mirrored their own emotional blocks.
But incorporating Core Energetics techniques into the development process made it abundantly clear that this was not some casual, vague relationship between a script’s deeper core and the writer’s own psyche: when peeling back the layers of a writer’s blocks on a particular project, it has consistently been revealed that the writer is coming up against something very specific and deep inside himself that is crying out to be examined, moved and healed, and that this personal conflict is directly connected to the content of the drama.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a larger-than-life adventure movie, a small-scale drama, or even a paid writing assignment from a production company or studio – time and time again, I was watching writers unconsciously create and draw in the scripts that would most facilitate their own growth and healing as individuals in the world. And the writers that were willing to effectively own these issues in a real, honest way were the ones who were ultimately creating dynamic scripts that sing on the page.
Suddenly, many of my clients’ creative blocks made so much more sense – if we’re drawn to the very scripts that are going to challenge our emotional comfort zones, of course our minds will rebel, of course our minds will be more content to circle the hanger rather than allow our creative spirit to take off, of course we’re going to get hung up on all the distracting details of structure rather than surrender to the full depth of this potentially transformational process.
Fortunately, the use of Core Energetics techniques has created an organic process that takes the onus off the mind and instead paves a more productive, supportive way for writers to feel into these creative/life blocks and thereby write exponentially more effective scripts:
1) We consciously identify the specific emotional blocks underlying any areas of struggle or confusion in the development process.
2) We consciously make the connection between these emotional blocks and the dramatic content of the movie.
3) We use core techniques to help the writer actively break through the very blocks that are holding them back so that they can have full access to their script’s energy on the page.
I had one client, “Janice,” who had been hired to write a feature film about an adolescent boy who goes on a extraordinary adventure amidst the pyramids in Egypt. Janice could feel in her body a vision for this film that was bold, daring and full of magic – and yet she simply could not translate that vision onto the page. She kept receiving notes that her hero, Alex, came off as snotty rather than as an engaging lead character on the forefront of an adventure. And truthfully, even when Janice spoke of Alex’s characterization, he did in fact sound contrary and altogether negative. Janice claimed that she just couldn’t connect to Alex in an honest way – whenever it came time to time to sit down and write, she simply couldn’t hear Alex’s voice or get behind his energy at all. In short, she felt blocked and, as a result, had grown hopeless about the project in general.
It became immediately clear to me that there was a huge disconnect between Janice’s desire to write a magical adventure and her actual willingness to create that adventure on the page. I asked Janice to do a simple exercise that would get her more into her body (hitting a large cushion with a tennis racket) and to just stream-of-consciously articulate the part of her that longed for magical adventure.
Janice hit an immediate roadblock – every time she went to hit and energize her thirst for excitement, her throat would close up and her body would falter.
She couldn’t do it.
Or rather, she wouldn’t do it.
Janice would not allow herself to get carried away by the same spirit of adventure she longed to write about. It was suddenly clear that there was a deep voice inside of her that was doing everything possible not to let this energy move through her system.
So, we dug a little further and discovered that Janice had never really been allowed to follow her spontaneous impulses as a child growing up in a conservative Chinese family. In fact, she had been punished for it. For as long as she could remember, Janice has always felt inside herself a desire to be in the moment and to follow the exciting winds of change, but has always stopped this desire short out of fear of inevitable recrimination. Now, as an adult, Janice had recreated that punishment by keeping herself in a tightly-controlled box. She wouldn’t risk the pain and humiliation she had felt so long ago when her thirst for adventure had first been squashed.
And if Janice wasn’t allowed to pursue her thirst for adventure, there was no way in hell that she was going to allow Alex to have a magical voyage through ancient Egypt.
No wonder Alex was coming off as such a brat: Janice was channeling all her disowned anger and resentment into her character. What was supposed to be a driven, life-loving and life-affirming adolescent hero was instead showing up as a cantankerous kid who was essentially getting dragged kicking and screaming through his adventure by the wheels of the premeditated outline.
Just like Janice was dragging herself kicking and screaming through the premeditated outline of her life.
So, for the first time ever, we allowed Janice to have her “no” all the way.
Rather than letting Janice passively lament that she simply couldn’t “feel” Alex on the page, we got her back into her body with some more hitting and I encouraged her to claim the part of herself that would never let herself have an adventure, that would never let herself be swept up by the life’s potential magic, that would never let herself have her spirit all the way.
Once we brought this disowned “no” to consciousness, Janice was immediately able to recognize just how much of her own life she was keeping herself from through her stubborn refusal to feel the magic around her. This awareness made her hungry to reclaim her “yes” to life, so we energized this affirmative direction through physical action and gave her the space to really claim the exciting journey that she felt was rightfully hers.
This time, Janice was able to make a real connection to her passion for adventure – she had a very specific, detailed and rich sense of how it lived inside her. In the safety of that moment, she felt willing to fully access a part of herself that had been long dormant.
I knew that Janice’s willingness to start saying “yes” to herself meant she must also be ready to start saying “yes” to Alex as well.
In a final piece to the process, we had Janice close her eyes and really connect to where Alex lived inside of her body. In this place, Janice was immediately able to see images of Alex’s journey, to allow all the different ideas for Alex’s adventure to come tumbling out of her mouth, and to step into her willingness to finally have this script all the way.
That week, Janice reported that she was having a much easier time connecting to Alex on the page.
Writers like Janice have made one thing incredibly clear to me:
We write the scripts that want to kill us.
That might initially sound menacing or full of foreboding, but I am not talking about literal death. I am talking about the metaphorical death of parts of ourselves that no longer serve our time here on the planet.
In this case, it was time for Janice’s “no” to adventure to die. It had outlived its usefulness. What better way for her subconscious to kill it off than to attract a script about a young boy who goes on the kind of larger-than-life adventure that she had always dreamed of but always denied herself. This script brought into light the very block that needed to be dismantled in order for Janice to have more of herself.
When we’re willing to be in deep relationship with our scripts – that is to say, when we’re willing to view our scripts as something more than just a product independent of us or as a vehicle for our careers or ego, when we’re willing to see our scripts as vessels for our own growth and emotional/spiritual journey – then we arrive at a place where our creative life becomes unified with our life as a whole.
Isn’t this ultimately what we’re all after as artists? To create work that meaningfully reflects and explores who we are as individuals?
The problem is that to fully claim this work often means confronting things in ourselves that might require emotional or psychological tools we don’t currently have in our possession.
The beauty of fusing Core Energetics techniques with the writing process is that it provides the tools necessary to facilitate a truly empowering creative process.
We develop our scripts to grow ourselves; we grow ourselves to grow our scripts; and then we put something whole out there in the world that will in turn inspire others to grow in the same direction.
And that is the ultimate co-creative power of art.