What keeps you going after your dreams of being a screenwriter?

January 7, 2012 § 3 Comments

As screenwriters we constantly deal with adversity, rejection, criticism, notes, rewrites and never-ending changes. What keeps you going?  It must be your strong belief that success is just around the corner.  A positive outlook helps to get us through the rough times when it feels like no one cares.  The constant pursuit of validation from others becomes exhausting, so the validation and satisfaction needs to come from within—just knowing you completed your best work needs to be enough.

You need to love the process of writing, embrace it… the ups and downs are all part of a screenwriter’s journey.  Don’t torture yourself by just focusing on if your latest project will sell.  The reality is that most scripts you write on spec will not sell.  If they become a writing sample that secures you a job, it will have been worth every page.  Every project you create moves you one step forward down the field and keeps you in the game.  If you’re able to hold new ground, you’re on the road to success.  You may have to write ten scripts to sell your first one, but you need to accept this fact before you decide to travel down the road of a screenwriter. It’s going to take a tremendous amount of work and time over the long haul because a career usually doesn’t happen overnight.

BoulderFlatThere will be days when you’ll feel like you can’t push any project forward.  You’ll feel like you have stalled, but if you’re always writing, you’re never be far away from what you love to do.  You have to love to write even if you don’t get paid.  I was lucky to sell the first script I wrote out of film school and it was my fourth script overall.  It was a long five-year slog to find a producer who wanted to make the film and then it was a few years later until production.  What got me through was I never stopped believing it could happen.  If I gave up when it got rough, I wouldn’t have six produced films today.

What got me through was never giving up.  It was never an option for me.  I never lost sight of my dream and worked every day toward my goal of being a working screenwriter.  Yes, there were plenty of doubtful periods where fear overwhelmed me, but I kept pressing forward and doing the work.  It’s all about the work.  If you keep focused and continue to write new projects, you will eventually sell something.  It comes down to how long you’re willing to give yourself a shot at becoming a Hollywood screenwriter.  Many people give themselves a set amount of time and when they reach the end, they reevaluate and sometimes decide to pursue other endeavors.  Some of my friends hit a period in their lives when they either wanted a family and their screenwriting or acting career wasn’t happening fast enough and they got out.  They left their pursuit of their dream.  Someone once asked me, “what if you don’t make it by thirty?”  I replied, “What’s considered making it?”  When I was thirty, I was working at my first writing job as a staff writer for a hugely popular MTV show and never looked back.  By thirty-two I co-wrote and produced my first feature film starring an Academy Award nominated actor, and I never looked back.  By thirty-three, I had my first spec in production and I never looked back.

Faith certainly helps, faith and belief from those who are close to you.  Stephen King in his fantastic book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” writes, “Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches, just believing is usually enough.”  I completely agree and the belief starts within you.

Do whatever you need to keep you going and never give up on your dream.  Embrace the journey and strive to continually become a better writer. Many of the most successful writers had to slog through years of rejection and it’s only because they never gave up, they eventually broke through and became successful.  J.K. Rowling’s first “Harry Potter” book was rejected by twelve publishing houses.  Twelve!  She’s now a billionaire author who has sold over 400 million copies—the best-selling book series in history.  The “Harry Potter” movies are the second most successful series in cinema history with a $7 billion gross.  What if she gave up after six rejections?  What if you give up after ten rejections?  Maybe your next script submission will be the break you need to launch your career?  This is what keeps us going.

So many of our choices in life result in random acts and it’s not always cause and effect.  If you accept and understand that a career in screenwriting is a numbers game, you’ll continue to roll the dice, do your best work and stay in the game.  If you give up and quit, it’s guaranteed that you will never become a working screenwriter. I’m living proof that dreams really do come true.

Do whatever it takes to keep going after your dreams—and keep writing.

Scriptcat out!

Did you just complete your latest screenplay? Need in-depth consultation/editing/analysis? Check out my consultation services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.

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“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” – Goethe

“Do I really believe that my work is crucial to the planet’s survival?  Of course not.  But it’s as important to me as catching that mouse is to the hawk circling outside my window.  He’s hungry.  He needs a kill. So do I.” —Steven Pressfield

“The prospect of success in achieving our most cherished dream is not without its terrors. Who is more deprived and alone than the man who has achieved his dream?”— Brendan Francis Behan

“Seeking support from friends and family is like having your people gathered around at your deathbed.  It’s nice, but when the ship sails, all they can do is stand on the dock waving goodbye.  Any support we get from persons of flesh and blood is like Monopoly money; it’s not legal tender in that sphere where we have to do our work.  In fact, the more energy we spend stoking up on support from colleagues and loved ones, the weaker we become and the less capable of handling our business.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

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§ 3 Responses to What keeps you going after your dreams of being a screenwriter?

  • Well said, Mark! People often say “But I’ll be such-and-such age when I graduate (or make it or achieve the big goal)” and I always ask: “And how old will you be then if you don’t do it?”

    Loving the process of writing and knowing that you are living each day to the fullest is what matters. Life is NOW. Thanks for encouraging us to keep at it!

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