Accept new screenwriting challenges and push yourself out of your comfort zone…
January 24, 2017 § 1 Comment
As screenwriters, we constantly need to challenge ourselves and not be afraid of criticism, rejection, and failure. This is how we’ll grow as writers. Even after working as a screenwriting professional for the last twenty years, I was recently reminded of this when I faced my own professional challenge. I was hired as a script doctor to do a page one rewrite of an existing screenplay that is going into production in a month. The gig required me to complete a new first draft in less than two weeks. My fastest record before was twenty days, so I asked myself if I could finish this new script in less time? Regardless, it was the contracted job and I accepted the challenge. I wanted to push myself and really stretch my abilities. This was my 31 st feature screenplay that I’ve written on my journey to date, and the one thing I’ve learned is that every time up to the plate is a different experience. I never forget this and it keeps me humble at the enormity of the craft and I respect it completely.
The longer you write, the more tricks you learn, but you still have to fill the blank page. This new gig required me to put in eight to ten-hour days and writing a minimum of ten pages a day—and one day I even wrote fourteen pages. I managed to complete this new screenplay in twelve days—a major accomplishment for me. And it was a solid first draft that received positive feedback from the buyers and the executives. I just completed the rewrite and it’s moving out of development and into pre-production.
We as writers need to constantly take chances and push ourselves out of our comfort zone. It’s easy to get comfortable and not take risks or accept bigger challenges. Don’t become a lazy screenwriter. Avoid this at all costs. This is particularly important with regards to the material you write. Take chances with your material and don’t fear rejection or failure. Never stop challenging yourself because this will keep you growing as a screenwriter. If you fail miserably, use the experience to learn and get better the next time.
In addition, a full and interesting life is a vital part of any screenwriter’s ongoing journey. If you’re not observing life and have your creative radar set to detect even subtle events in the real world, how are you doing to write with honesty? You never know when you’ll observe a person or an interaction that will spawn an idea for a project or maybe another one in the future. Don’t just regurgitate what you’ve seen in other movies and television—experience life first hand and bring back real stories from your fantastic adventures. When you’re out in the world, listen closely to how people speak, study how they act and react, and constantly record your findings. I collect my observations and write them into a small notebook that I call my “writing arsenal.” I carry it in my briefcase with my laptop and I record various thoughts, ideas, and lines of dialogue that might end up in my current projects or another script some day. My own life experiences also get logged into my writing arsenal.
The journey of any artist is a lifelong adventure and a huge part of the creative process is pushing yourself, accepting challenges, and experiencing life—the good and the bad. You can’t write honestly unless you’ve really lived with the ups and downs. The great Orson Welles, in conversation with Peter Bogdanovich in the book This Is Orson Welles said, “The great danger for any artist is to find himself comfortable. It’s his duty to find the point of maximum discomfort, to search it out.”
If you stop learning and being curious, you are finished.
Copyright 2017 by Mark Sanderson on blog MY BLANK PAGE.
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The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” — Joseph Campbell
“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure. But the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. [F]ailure means a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself to be anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believe I truly belonged. [R]ock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.” ~ J.K. Rowling
“The time we have alone; the time we have in walking; the time we have in riding a bicycle; are the most important times for a writer. Escaping from a typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give your subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs on the subconscious level.”—Ray Bradbury
“There are some things which cannot be learned quickly and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.”—Ernest Hemingway