On your screenwriting journey, make sure to enjoy the little successes along the way…
February 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Sometimes the big successes happen only so often and during the between times when you’re working hard toward your next goal, you might doubt your talent and even question if you’ll ever work again. Maybe the well has run dry for you? What if you don’t get a screenwriting job? What if you can’t find an agent or manager? Sometimes, the only nourishment we have in this barren wasteland of screenwriting is our faith and the anchor of the small achievement. The ingredients of a big success are usually a range of small successes all leading up to that sale or screenwriting job.
So, it’s the little successes that keep us going through the rough times. I know for me personally, what gets me through is seeing results from my forward movement. Always be moving forward even if it’s a few steps at a time. You’ll stumble and experience failure, but avoid falling into the self-doubt pit where the darkness of fear overshadows your burning desire to make it as a screenwriter in Hollywood.
Take rejection lightly. We all suffer disappointment, but when you can accept rejection as part of the process, you can better adjust your temperament and not take the criticism personally. There’s a myriad of reasons why a producer might reject your project but they could still like your writing. Selling a project is great, but if it doesn’t sell, your writing ability can also land you a job. Think positively and train yourself to avoid negative, self-worth thoughts. The more you think negatively, the more it becomes an emotion and then it’s hard to separate the two. You can actually start to believe a reality that isn’t true.
Many times it’s not always about the sale or the immediate final result. A rejection can actually be an open door and maybe it’s a “pass” now, but they like your writing and want to see more. What seemed like a failure was really a success, because you started a new relationship with a producer or executive whose door is now open to you. This is why you should always be working on your next project. Building these relationships is the key to a successful career as a working screenwriter so don’t get depressed when your script doesn’t sell the first time out.
Back in the day before I was a working screenwriter, I entered my script in the Academy’s Nicholl Fellowship with the hopes of winning one of the year-long fellowships. My script was not one of the nine finalists, but was a semi-finalist script, placing in the top 3% of all entries and ended up in the top twenty scripts overall. They picked the top eight for the fellowship. I could have looked upon this as a complete failure, but I used my script’s advanced placement as a successful step forward and was able to get producers to read it because of my achievement. I eventually found a producer who saw my script’s potential, his company bought my script, produced it into a movie and it was distributed worldwide.
You can spend years working on many projects and if you’re lucky, you’ll get paid to write a few and some will actually be produced. More often, many projects never get produced and they become writing samples that might get you work in the future. There’s a myriad of different scenarios where the result is out of your control. So, if you’re slogging away in the trenches anyway, fighting the good fight, why not celebrate the little successes along the way?
It won’t always be a slam-dunk, but if you’re in the game and working toward your goal, you’ll get through the rough times by cherishing the little successes. Over the long haul, it’s the positive steps forward that build a career, not the pursuit of one big sale. It does happen for a select and lucky few, but the more realistic journey is one built from a long series of seemingly tiny successes.
On your road to being a working screenwriter, any forward position that you’re able to hold is a triumph. Never lose ground by falling into the pit of self-doubt with debilitating fear. Stay hungry and face the challenges straight on because there’s no way around them, only through them. Once you’ve overcome the next challenge, hold that new position and use it to regroup and push even farther down the road. It’s very much like a battle and you’ll stand a better chance at survival over the long haul if you take time to celebrate the hard-earned successes — no matter how small they seem.
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“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”~ Albert Schweitzer
“Believe me that in every big thing or achievement there are obstacles — big or small — and the reaction one shows to such an obstacle is what counts not the obstacle itself.”—Bruce Lee
“Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.”—Ray Bradbury
“Writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that. Not to write, for many of us, is to die. We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout.”—Ray Bradbury