What You Want vs. What You Need

There was a time when I thought being depressed was good for my writing. I believed having a morbid take on the world gave me gravitas, but I’d begun to wonder if staring at the night sky while smoking three cigarettes at the same time was not me living my best life. 

My therapist lived in NYC at a time before video conferencing was a thing. I needed someone in LA so I got a referral from a friend to see a guy.

The idea of being prescribed antidepressants by a Beverly Hills psychiatrist because I was some poor little comedy writer on a hit TV show was so on-brand that I practically skipped there. 

His office was musty and filled with books. And it was brown. Brown bookshelves, brown coffee table, brown chairs, dead plant. I skittered my way to the brown couch.

When I looked up at the man in his big leather chair behind a desk, I thought, “Holy hell, am I hallucinating?” Aside from being old and large, he looked very very much like a toad. A toad in the shape of a human. Or vice versa. Either way, his eyes were on opposite sides of his head - a bald head that melted into his body. His skin was a mottled green-gray. His mouth stretched from earhole to earhole.

To protect his identity and because I have blocked it out, we’ll call him Dr. Bufo.* I’d paid for the session. The only thing to do was to forge ahead. 

Me: I’m depressed

Bufo: No you’re not.

Me: …what the fuck?

Bufo: How much do you drink?

Me: None of your business.

Bufo: More than two drinks a night?

Me: (yes) No.

The nerve.

Bufo: Get off the sauce.

Me: ‘Scuse me?

Bufo: Get off the sauce.

Me: Really, I don’t know follow--

Bufo: Stop drinking.

Me: Oh. No. Thanks. I don’t want to.

He wheeled from behind his desk either to make a point or because he’d spotted a fly near the window. He repeated the sauce comment and refused to prescribe medication until I quit drinking. I promptly left.  

I did not get off said sauce.

In rehab a few years later, I got to thinking that maybe the psychiatrist was trying to tell me what I needed to know and not what I wanted to know. I'd gone in with a problem and had been told I was focusing on the wrong thing. Before you think I'm going soft and giving him credit for my moment of clarity, I'm not. The dude was a terrifyingly large amphibian who happened to be landlocked in a 90210 ZIP code, but I did recognize there was value in understanding the difference between what one wants and what one needs, and that the two may be far apart.

If what you want is to be a better writer, you need practice; you need to write every day. If you want to be a better communicator, you need to know the laws of persuasion. You need to tap into your talent and refine your message. This takes grit. Moving from “want” to “need” can be hard because it involves change and we’re hard-wired to buckle against change.

All this to say, you're in the right place. StoryLab Pro focuses on screenwriting and writing-writing. There are master classes on the horizon, and script consulting and get-yer-head-on-straight coaching. 


*Bufo is Latin for toad.

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