Always be humble on your screenwriting journey…
January 30, 2014 § 3 Comments
Being humble? It’s respecting the reality that your journey will be a long haul marathon to reach any level of success. Know one important fact: You will never be bigger than your craft. The moment you believe that just because you like movies, read a few screenwriting books, and have written a few screenplays you’re an expert—the craft will quickly humble and humiliate you. Similar to life, screenwriting is an ongoing, ever-changing journey and learning experience. Yes, it’s a personal mountain to climb and possibly your ultimate challenge and we all have mountains to climb in our lives, but finding success as a working screenwriter is one hell of a pursuit. Do yourself a huge favor early in your journey and respect this fact. The great Rod Serling said, “This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”
Also don’t be lulled into the belief that somehow it’s going to be different for you because you’re “special” or more “talented” than the next screenwriter. Approximately 50,000 precious screenplays bounce around Hollywood every year and nobody really cares. Most of the scripts are poorly written by aspirants looking for their “big break” or a huge sale bringing them fame and fortune. This is why Hollywood continues to build the walls higher and higher to filter screenwriters out. Hollywood doesn’t owe you a read, a sale, or even a career. Just because you’ve put words to paper doesn’t mean anything to the bigger Hollywood community because it’s a place inundated with screenplays. Your mother may be impressed that you finished a screenplay, but so did my gardener and the barista at Starbucks. If you did finish your screenplay, congratulations because you’ve accomplished more than most. Usually aspirants talk about their writing process more than actually writing. Humility comes from knowing that you’ll have to create a solid body of work to standout. One script isn’t going to do it and ten poorly written scripts will definitely not do it. I finally made some noise with my fifth spec screenplay—it sold and was eventually made into a film and distributed. That opened the door to assignment work and I’ve rarely written another spec since as I’ve been too busy getting paid to write.
What about competition? There is always someone who wants it more than you and is willing to work harder and sacrifice more than you’ll ever be willing to do. That’s okay. Don’t worry about the outside competition, the only real competition is with yourself to become a better screenwriter with every successive script you write.
We’re all special and unique, but we still have to claw, fight and write our way to any type of success by hard work, discipline, drive, sacrifice and passion. We all have to fill those blank pages to get a shot at any level of success. Even with talent and a fantastic screenplay there are still no guarantees of success. Screenplays that sell can get lost in development hell and never produced. Some projects even get lost in the mire of financing or losing the lead actor and it implodes.
Be humble as it will serve you well on your long journey to reach any level of success. Know the task ahead of you, respect it and get on with the hard work of creating fresh, authentic and unique stories that showcase your talents. The rest of it is a roll of the dice, but keep rolling to stay in the game.
Keep writing and keep the faith because if you stop—you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success.
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“It is no small feat to get a movie made, on any subject, on any screen.” — JJ Abrams
“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
“All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is.”—Ernest Hemingway
“Act without expectation.” —Lao Tzu
“As an artist, I feel that we must try many things — but above all we must dare to fail.”—John Cassavetes
“This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling