Expiration date: NEVER!

arthur dent
Don’t throw in the towel just yet, Arthur

A friend emailed me earlier this week to vent his frustration regarding the latest development for pitching his TV pilot. Suffice to say, it didn’t go the way he’d hoped.

“Writing is hard work for me, and to have a project like this dismissed completely deflates me. I think I need to set a deadline (end of 2016?), and if I haven’t gotten a sale or at least representation by then, exit, stage left.”

I can totally sympathize. Who hasn’t been in that boat before? You try and try, feel like you’re making no headway and going nowhere fast.

But setting up a deadline of when you’ll stop once and for all?

Um, no.

As we all know, this is not an easy thing to do. The odds are already stacked against us, and it takes an extraordinary amount of effort, determination and perseverance to keep moving forward. And that’s just to get your first break.

I of all people can attest to feeling like nothing good is ever going to happen for me, and why again am I putting myself through the agony of all of this?

Because we’re writers. WE WRITE BECAUSE WE LOVE DOING IT.

For a writer willing to give up writing is, to quote the late, great Vizzini, inconceivable. As crazy as it sounds, I’d rather write and continue to fail than not write at all. (But in theory would be improving after each failure, thereby resulting in an inevitable success.)

DON’T GIVE UP. You never know when things will work out for you, so continuously having at it will always increase your odds.

Continue to work on getting better. Even if only a handful of people read your stuff and like it, that’s still a victory. And they do add up.

IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT. It takes a very, very long time to get to the finish line, let alone at your desired pace. And even then, you’re always striving to improve on it. Take this from someone who writes screenplays AND does half-marathons.

Believe me, there will be shitty days. Lots of them. You will be angry and frustrated. You will see others succeed while you feel like you’re going nowhere. It happens. But that’s the price you pay for setting off on this seemingly impossible journey.

But also keep in mind that you’re not alone. There are lots of us out on a similar path. Feel free to make the occasional turn so your path intersects with somebody else’s. It can help make the journey a bit easier.

My friend responded with a note of thanks and gratitude, which included “I’m ultimately a storyteller, a writer. This is what I exist to do, even if my audience is a small one. I will work hard to find it and share my stories.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Hang in there, chums.

So this is what inner peace feels like

zen garden
Serenity, calm, and all that

Philosophy, metaphysics and existentialism aren’t really my thing, but I suppose you could say I’m feeling very “zen” these days.

Part of it is stems from completing the last-polish-before-contests of my western. It definitely reads better, and I’m extremely happy with the results.

Working on this rewrite also renewed my sense of “don’t hold back”. It was exhilarating to write material that felt so alive and vibrant. I am fully confident this will continue with each draft of each of my scripts from this point on.

For some reason, this may also tie directly into a majority of my anxiety and stress and self-imposed pressure simply disappearing, or at least being drastically reduced.  Seriously. Maybe it’s from just accepting that success will happen when it happens, and that beating myself up until it does is just counter-productive. I suspect there will be times when I’ll still get a little down, but expect it to occur on a less regular basis and definitely not as severe.

Big things of a positive nature are ahead, chums. I will do my best to maintain this blissful sensation while I keep working toward reaching that inevitable goal.

Which I do expect to happen. Preferably sooner than later, but either way I’ll get there.

**Editor’s note – this is my 700th post. While the ideal subject matter would have been “I sold a script!” or at least along those lines, I’m quite content with it covering the topic it does.

I hope you’ve enjoyed being part of this for the previous 699 posts over the past 7 years, and that you’ll keep coming back for more.

Thanks for reading!

Happy to be done with it

jump-for-joy
Yeah, kind of feels like this

Another chapter has closed in my ongoing quest to become a working writer, or at least an annoying wrinkle has been ironed out.

Following the latest but not-surprisingly disappointing results, my involvement with the  “pay to pitch” practice has come to an end. A person can only take so much before totally abandoning the ship in question.

Simply put: I ain’t doin’ it no more.

How did I end up here? Easy. Desperation.

Despite all my efforts on several fronts, nothing was happening with any of my scripts. I got to the point that I’d try anything.

So I tried this. A few times, each with the same result – PASS, accompanied with a few classic chestnuts. “Couldn’t get excited about the story.” “Didn’t really care about the characters.” “No specificity of the throughline.” (This last one will stick with me until the end of time.)

I even went so far as to do one via video streaming, but technical issues really mucked things up. It’s kind of tough to pitch to someone when they can see you, but YOU CAN’T SEE THEM. Did the best I could, but still another PASS.

I got a survey/questionnaire about this one, and didn’t pull any punches in airing my frustration about it, adding how I couldn’t in good conscience recommend the service to anybody.

A representative contacted me soon afterward, expressing their sympathy and understanding, as well as an explanation that “their policies regarding responses were different now”, and offered a free pitch. I considered it, and decided to hold off unless something too irresistible came along. The rep also offered to help me with the pitch so as to get maximum results.

A few months went by, and what seemed like a solid match popped up. I contacted the rep, asking for their help, which they provided in the form of suggested edits. Each subsequent draft had to be uploaded to a file-storing program for the rep to read it, but I didn’t know if each new draft was replacing the old one, or just sitting there next to it. My emails to the rep were going unanswered, and the deadline was drawing near fast. In the end, there was nothing I could do.

The deadline came and went. Days went by, and no response. Days turned to weeks, and still nothing. As it neared the 2-month mark, I’d decided that was a sufficient amount of time and sent an email to the rep asking what had happened (plus a copy to the rep’s supervisor, just in case).

The response was almost immediate – from the supervisor. This was the first they’d heard about my situation, apologies were offered, along with the promise to give my pitch top priority with that company the next time. I said I’d be in touch.

A few hours later, I got an email from the original rep, who informed me they were no longer with the company (their departure most likely around the same time as, if not before, my original deadline).

Jump ahead a few days, and a response to my original pitch arrived from the company in question.

5/5 in every category, save for a 3/5 in Character Obstacles (which was one of the things I’d cut based on the rep’s suggestions).

PASS.

I sent another email to the supervisor, informing them about this (since I’m sure they weren’t even aware of it) and officially calling it quits. I won’t hold my breath waiting for a response.

What bothers me the most about this whole experience is how easily I bought into the false hope that was being sold. Like I said, I was feeling frustrated and desperate, and this seemed like my only option, which of course it wasn’t.

There are very rough days where I get extremely depressed about my lack of progress, and going through something like this doesn’t help – especially when it keeps happening over and over again. You learn real fast how many hits you can endure before wanting to simply give up completely.

But I’m not at that point just yet.

A lot of writer friends have offered up words of encouragement, and a few positive things have happened recently so as to improve my spirits, or at least renew my belief in my writing skills. Things will take a turn for the better.

The marathon continues, one step at a time. But I won’t be paying for it anymore.

 

A workload on steroids

Man drowning in stacks of paperwork
All I need to do is cut out the non-essentials. Who needs food, sleep or oxygen anyway?

I’m in the home stretch for the November writing project. I got into Act 3 over the weekend, and think there about 10-12 pages left before I can call it a day. No reason I can’t wrap things up in the next couple of days. Estimated final page count should be somewhere in the mid-90s, so pretty much where I was hoping it would be.

My original intent was to put that on the back burner once it was done and shift my focus to another script, but something else has developed that definitely requires my attention: other people’s work.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been very fortunate to have gotten some fantastic feedback from friends and trusted colleagues. Now it’s my turn to return the favor.

Actually, make that favors. Plural.

Every time I’ve asked someone if they’d be willing to read and give me notes, I always offer to do the same for them. And several have taken me up on the offer.

Which is totally fine. I just didn’t expect all of them to happen within such a short timeframe.  But it’s cool. Just requires a little planning.

Some script-related items, two scripts requiring special attention (with a bit of a time limitation), and at least 4-5 others getting straight-up notes. Yeah, that’s a lot, but I’d feel pretty shitty if I didn’t reciprocate the kindness all of these folks extended to me.

While I’d love to keep the 2-pages-a-day momentum going clear through to the end of December and have at least part of a draft of another script, taking care of these is now top priority.

It may take me a little longer than I expect, but I always strive to honor my commitments. I said I’d do something for you, and by gosh, I’ll do it.

It’s the least I can do.

Trying times, indeed

an apt metaphor if ever there was one
An apt metaphor if ever there was one

You know how they say you’ve got to endure a whole lot of ‘no’s until you get that single magical ‘yes’?

Well, another ‘no’ was added to the pile this week in the form of a “Pass” rating from an industry professional regarding my western spec. And to make it that much better, the “Pass” was applied to both script and writer. Apparently my skills didn’t pass muster, either.

They didn’t have many positive things to say, and I’m not going to say their comments were right or wrong. There may be a lot of helpful info in their coverage, but in the end it’s just their opinion.

A few people offered up a similar reaction:  This is ONE PERSON’s opinion. People will always find fault with your work. The next person may think it’s great. Keep trying. Don’t give up.

Point is: you never become completely immune to criticism.

Was I being a little delusional in my hopes that they’d really like it? I knew they wouldn’t claim it was the best script ever, but even a “Hey, this has potential” would have been nice.

Was I laboring under some false sense of optimism? Was I letting my excitement and enthusiasm get in the way of being totally objective?

Even more so, despite reassurances from friends and trusted colleagues, have I been fooling myself all this time in thinking I actually have talent?

How could anyone in this situation not think along these lines?

Let’s consider my confidence shaken and definitely weakened, but not totally gone. It still stings a bit, but I’ll survive.

And almost as if exactly on cue, later in the day came these two totally unsolicited comments from online connections:

“With the credibility you have with contest wins and that fabulous blog, I’m astonished you’re unproduced.”

“I wanted to say a big fat THANK YOU for your comments on my script! I couldn’t have done it without you. THANKS AGAIN!”

Maybe there’s hope for me yet.