A few thoughts on survival as a screenwriter…
April 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
As screenwriters, we constantly deal with adversity, rejection, criticism, rewrites and changes to our work. It’s part of the process, but what at first may seem a failure is actually your road to success. The late Bruce Lee said, “Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” Your glorious journey will be more tolerable if you embrace the entire process, the ups and downs and face the unknown without fear. A huge part of the journey is experiencing life so you can become an authentic writer. It’s not always about the one sale or the job, it’s about growing as a person and artist.
Don’t torture yourself with negative, fear-based thoughts but stay positive and always keep moving ahead. Write every day, but also do something to move your career forward even if it’s sending an E-mail, following up with a phone call, or sending out a script to a new contact. Take a few steps forward every day on your journey as a screenwriter.
There will be days when you feel like you’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at night with only a flashlight trying to get noticed. A great survival tactic is to always be writing because you will never stray too far from your path. Be mindful of your hunger and passion for your work. It can drive you to act in courageous ways you never imagined. I’m no stranger to rough times, but I was able to weather each storm because I always had faith and never gave up. Quitting is never an option for me.
Yes, it does get exhausting at times when it feels like you are the only one who believes in you. This is why it helps to have friends and family support your endeavors as a screenwriter. Otherwise, it can be a lonely road that appears without end. In Stephen King’s fantastic book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” he 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.” Perfectly said.
As you’re writing, keep the intimate details of your work to yourself. Don’t continually talk about the status of your projects or what is happening with each one. Hollywood has a bizarre time warp that works on its own schedule. Every project will take much longer than you ever expected so you don’t need people thinking that you’re blowing smoke when you talk about the status of your material. The truth is that it takes an incredible amount of time for any script to find a home and eventually get produced. Sometimes the less you say about your progress the better. We all have our own inner voice of self-doubt, but why give fodder to your critics and skeptics who will use it to squash your dreams. They’ll even taint any good news and use it to belittle your success because they didn’t have the guts to risk everything to pursue their own dreams. They enjoy raining on your parade instead. Protect your dreams and cut the naysayers out of your life.
Someone once asked me back in the day, “What are you going to do if you don’t make it by thirty?” I laughed, because I never gave myself a timetable on my dreams. This person was looking at my life and my choices through their narrow filter and didn’t realize quitting was never an option for me. All of my chips were always on the table because I was “all in.” When I did turn thirty, I was working at my first Hollywood job as a staff writer on a hugely popular game show. By the time I was thirty-three, I had co-written and produced my first feature film, and a year later my first spec screenplay went into production and I never looked back. Quit at thirty? That was never an option. What if I decided to leave the business right before my time was to come? You never know what opportunity is around the next corner and that’s why we soldier on every day to stay in the game.
Never giving up is success in my book!
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“You can’t get to wonderful without passing through alright.” – Bill Withers
“Act without expectation.” —Lao Tzu
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” ― Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”
“The professional also “dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”