As we all know, a writer needs an abundance of hope as well as faith in order to survive this industry. As similar as those two terms may seem, they are vastly different.
- Hope: To cherish a desire with anticipation. To expect with confidence.
- Faith: Something that is believed especially with strong conviction, without question.
Simply put, hope involves expectations, but faith is a constant, unwavering belief that something exists or will happen.
The problem with hope is it’s ever-changing and often depends on other people’s actions – actions you can’t control, but hope will happen.
Take pitching for example. The actual pitch is under your control, but you have no idea if the development executive you’re pitching to has a hangover, just fell in love, or just got dumped. How your script fits into the executive’s life experiences could affect whether you get a request for a read or not.
But let’s say the exec did ask to read your screenplay. Then, your writing skills are your best shot at getting to the next level. Do you have faith you executed the script to its fullest potential? You’d better. You have one shot at a first impression. That is under your control.
Now, let’s assume you did indeed write the best script in the world. That should guarantee you a development slot, yes? Think again. Maybe the budget isn’t right, or the timing is off, and you get a “pass.”
Lost hope yet?
Maybe there isn’t hope for your script in that one production company, but that well-written script in the reject heap is a fantastic writing sample. So, don’t take a rejection and tuck your tail between your legs. Instead, brainstorm ways you can use this writing sample to open other doors.
Rejection is a huge part of this industry, making hope impossible some days. This is where faith takes over.
Faith must be a constant. It’s the thing you choose and don’t waiver on. Have faith in your ability, in your goals, and in your tenacity.
There is no room for doubt. The second you start doubting your faith, a poison will seep into your psyche and infect your creativity. You will fail, no doubt about that.
While faith is a constant, hope is a variable.
The quickest killer of hope is unrealistic expectation. I wrote a piece last June titled “Managing Expectations.” It’s a must-read prior to pitching.
Being unrealistic is extremely dangerous. If you set your expectations too high, you’ll crash and burn, making longevity impossible. Too low, you’ll never get out of your writer cave. Don’t let your career be a roller coaster of emotion. There’s not enough tequila in the world to help you manage that ride.
Remember, faith is defined as having “strong conviction, without question.”
Sometimes your faith gets tested. My children challenge mine often. They watch my writing journey closely, sometimes perplexed, knowing I work until midnight almost every night.
The other day they asked, “If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?”
I responded honestly: “Dead.”
I can’t imagine my life without writing. And I can’t imagine my writing not being recognized at some point and making it to the screen. It may not happen the way I envisioned when I started screenwriting, but it will happen one way or another.
I’ll make it happen – because I have faith this is my destiny.
But since insecurity is a part of all writers’ lives, it’s okay to have props to help.
Find something tangible that helps you hold firm to your faith in succeeding. It can be a quote, a movie poster, or a picture of an author you admire who struggled to succeed. Whatever it is, it needs to speak to you personally and give you strength when you look at it.
I have several things on my desk to keep my faith strong and my hope intact. One is a quote, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”
The other is a picture of myself at 28 years of age, with one of my dear childhood friends, Sharon. We had many conversations about life, love, hope, faith, and destiny. One in particular drives me. I had just started writing Slavery by Another Name and panicked, thinking I couldn’t do the story justice. She took me by the hands and said, “If this is what your dream is, then you have no choice but to fulfill it … or you’ll lay on your deathbed and say ‘what if?’”
Sharon knew of what she spoke. She died the following year of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Life is short, and it’s full of disappointment, challenges, fear, anxiety, and possibilities, as well as hope and faith. We can’t control everything that happens, but we can keep our faith strong.
If you have doubts, test your faith by simply asking yourself “Can you imagine leaving this world not having tried your hardest to succeed?”
We really only need one person to have faith in us … ourselves.