Be patient, respect the challenges ahead, focus on your love of the craft and not the urgency for success…
November 16, 2014 § 1 Comment
If you’re just starting out writing screenplays or if you’ve been in the game for a few years, you will recognize it’s a long haul journey to reach any level of success in the film industry. One script will not launch your career and it may take five or six until you hit your stride with your ability to compete on a professional level. Even if you reach the point where you are working, there are no guarantees of any continued success—ever.
Are you willing to do what it takes and spend the time to craft a solid body of work to compete? Are you writing and learning to become an excellent screenwriter? Do you have the drive and tenacity to weather the storm of criticism, rejection and failure during the years it may take to secure even one successful job?
Remember that no one forced you to choose this endeavor. It’s your dream and you must be responsible for it. No one else can go after it for you. Being a screenwriter is not for the thin-skinned or for those looking for a shortcut to success. Ask yourself the honest questions about why you are pursuing a career in screenwriting. Realize that you must stay in the game over the long haul to have any shot at success. It’s a fool’s endeavor to seek fame and fortune, but if screenwriting is your life’s work and passion, you will find a way around any obstacles to succeed.
And what about time? It’s your greatest asset or your worst enemy. It depends on how you use your precious time to write uninterrupted and become productive. That’s why I ask aspirants if they have an artist’s mentality — or the insanity to believe that even as they stare into the dark void of the unknown, their burning passion will guide them across yet another hurdle.
It’s a numbers game at best and you’ll burn through a pile of specs before one finally either sells or lands you a screenwriting assignment. This is why it’s so important to always have many projects in various stages of writing, development or the idea & pitching stage. The urgency we feel as writers for a read or to sell scripts is always pushed back by the reality of the film business and the bizarre amount of time it takes for anything to happen. Any movement on your projects will always take longer than you ever expected. A career will probably take many years to forge. This is why you never want to stake your future on just one project because the odds selling anything are rare. You don’t need to put yourself in a the horrible position where you need to sell a script to get you out of debt or to save you from a day job that you hate.
As you travel on your screenwriting journey, the image that you project is extremely important and you should keep up an image of success. You do this by being busy and creating a solid body of material to show prospective agents, managers, producers and executives that you are a work horse with something to offer. Never give them a chance to think of you as a diva who believes he or she is God’s gift to cinema. It’s the team player and collaborator who always works again. The pain in the ass gets branded as “difficult” and wonders why the work has dried up.
Also remember, after you finish your spec screenplay, unleashing it upon Hollywood becomes the most important driving force in your life — unfortunately unless it’s an assignment job where the producer is waiting for you to deliver the project, no one cares. They just don’t give a sh*t. I’m not being cynical, just honest. You’re now part of the other 50,000 scripts registered at the Writers Guild every year and without representation, you too must figure a way to catapult it over the wall and into someone’s compound for a read. This entire process of writing, rewriting, to finding representation takes a long time and requires tremendous patience. Especially if you’re working a day job you hate and you see your script as your way out and into the life of a working screenwriter. I don’t suggest putting this kind of heavy pressure on yourself, as it will make you stressed and even more impatient. Here’s my advice on how to juggle a day job.
It’s a long road to becoming a working screenwriter and forging a career usually doesn’t happen overnight. My personal journey took six years out of film school until I secured my first professional writing job and eight years until my fifth spec went before the cameras. If you are in this for the long haul, it will require tremendous patience. Even becoming a better writer does not happen overnight and requires you to continually write, learn and create projects that you will sadly discover will ultimately never sell.
Your journey as a screenwriter will be a series of failures and mistakes, triumphs and little successes that when added up will hopefully lead to a steady career as a working screenwriter in Hollywood. The process will be long and difficult, but if you have patience and accept the challenges ahead, you’ll focus more on your love for the craft and not the urgency of success.
Keep on filling your blank pages and keep your eye on the big picture.
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“No road is too long for him who advances slowly and does not hurry, and no attainment is beyond his reach who equips himself with patience to achieve it.” — Jean de La Bruyere
“… a basic “must” for every writer: A simple solitude—physical & mental.”—Rod Serling
Stephen King with advice from his old newspaper editor John Gould: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”
“One of the things that young writers falsely hope exists is inspiration. A lot of young writers fail because they aren’t putting in the hours. Whether you can write all day every day, or whether you can write four hours on Sundays, whatever it is, you have to protect that time.”—William Goldman
“If a writer stops observing, he is finished.”—Ernest Hemingway
“The professional understands delayed gratification. He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare… the professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work. He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. He accepts that. He recognizes it as reality. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul. He sustains himself with the knowledge that if he can just keep the huskies mushing, sooner or later the sled will pull in to Nome.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”