Success. We dream about it. We lust for it. We wake in the wee hours before our day jobs, as well as burn the midnight oil, to find time to write. Some days, the amount of hours we clock seem endless, but we keep putting ink on paper, believing in our destiny to be writers.
Or do we?
I started screenwriting in 2004 and have met a multitude of screenwriters in the past eight years. I’ve also watched many of them… most of them… walk away from writing, exhausted from the pursuit.
What are you willing to do to succeed?
I ask this question seriously. I’m challenging you to draw a line. Raise a bar. Contemplate the realities of this industry, and think about the probabilities like a scientist. Put your dream mind up against your practical mind and ask, “How far will I go to succeed?”
Some writers give themselves a magical number of years to get produced. Or perhaps it’s their spouse who draws an imaginary line in the sand. Everyone has a breaking point, and it’s important to be honest about what that is.
BUT…(and you knew there would be a “but” when it comes to this ballsy writer) the more important question is how will you feel the day you walk away from writing? Relief? Happiness? Defeated? Will you always wonder “what if?”
“What if?” is not a question I ever want spinning in my brain. Ever.
So, how do you avoid being haunted by the writer ghost yet keep your sanity as you pursue your dreams?
Try as hard as you possibly can to succeed. Do everything it takes. Stop making excuses as to why you haven’t been produced or discovered. Learn your craft. Study. Take classes. Push yourself harder.
Do. Not. Quit.
The only way you will be guaranteed to fail is if you quit. As long as you’re in the game, there’s still a chance.
Recently I was emailing a friend who said, “I’d really love to adapt that book, but I’m sure the option is already taken.” And with that, she ended the conversation. Clearly, she wasn’t willing to go that far to succeed. She hadn’t even reached out to the author or his agent to ask if the book was optioned, yet she was walking away from the pursuit.
What’s the worst thing that can happen when you ask?
Someone says, “no.” Big whoop.
A “no” isn’t going to land you in the hospital, knock your teeth out, or give you a lobotomy. It’s simply going to sting… for a few moments… then you move on.
ASK! Whether you’re a director who wants to nab a Black List script, a writer who wants to adapt a NY Times Best Seller, or someone who wants that dream mentor to guide them in their career, if you don’t ask, it ain’t happenin’.
You will always wonder, “what if?”
Life is short. I’m only 48, yet have watched six friends be buried in the last two years. I wonder how many of them asked, “what if?” as they struggled with their last breath. I know for certain one did, and I watched that pain in her eyes during her final day of life.
I assure you, if you get news of my untimely demise, “what if?” is not a question floating in my psyche. I may not be produced yet, but I will be this summer, in making my short film, Impasse. Did I wait for a producer to find my script? Hell no. I found a great director, and we’re making it happen. Even in features, I practically made myself a stalker in pursuing the Pulitzer Prize adaptation of Slavery by Another Name, and I give tirelessly to the community of screenwriters I adore in Scriptchat, all because of my passion. Passion for writing, passion for community, and passion in seeing people live their dreams.
What will you do to succeed? What would make you throw in the towel? What roadblocks are you putting up yourself?
This is I, challenging you to start being proactive in your writing career. If you want it, get it… take it. Do it.
*Insert Cher face slap from Moonstruck *
Snap out of it! Stop making excuses and make it happen.
Here’s how: Determine what is holding you back. If it’s lack of skill, then take classes. If it’s fear, then do what I did, and give it up. If it’s people hindering you, stop letting them piss on your flame, and get them out of your life. If it’s money, keep working your day job, and write at night. Lose sleep. It won’t kill you.
Do what you need to do to succeed. If you don’t do what is in your control, and your name never ends up in the credits rolling on the screen, you have no one to blame but yourself. I understand not everyone of us will make it to the big screen, but if we do the hard work, study, train, write every single day, and we still don’t succeed, we’ll never have to say “what if?” In my opinion, that alone is worth the effort.
While you’re at it, give everything in your life your all. Love. Children. Play. Live your life hard. The more you live, the more you have to write about. You’ll have plenty of time to sleep in your grave.
Despite how amazing we all think we are, no one is going to make our dreams come true for us. That’s our job. There are no do overs.
What will you do to succeed? Tell me in the comments. Make yourself accountable. Then do it.