Trying to make it as a screenwriter is a tough choice to begin with. It’s a long, drawn-out process that takes a long time before any significant results can be achieved. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, it remains a marathon, not a sprint.
And that also means there’s going to be A LOT of heartache and disappointment along the way, and that can really take its toll on you. Not to sound too New Age-y, but all that negative energy can do significant damage to your confidence and self-esteem.
“This is never going to work.”
“I can’t do this.”
“Why do I even bother?”
If you’ve never said or thought any of these things, I’d love to know how in the world you managed to accomplish that and still call yourself a screenwriter.
Many’s the time I’ve seen comments on a public forum from another writer that echo these sentiments, or had them send me a private note saying something similar.
And I feel for them – whole-heartedly. I’ve been that writer thinking those thoughts a lot, too.
Do I wish I could help them out in any capacity? Without a doubt.
Even though it may not be much, I’ll offer up whatever support or encouragement I can. Don’t underestimate the power or effectiveness of telling somebody you’re in their corner. It makes quite the difference knowing you’re not alone during this tumultuous journey.
I once got a note from a writer I barely knew. They knew a writer I knew, and had seen some of my postings online. We were both semi-finalists in a prestigious contest, and it was the day the finalists were being announced.
For reasons totally unknown to me, they contacted me, asking if I’d received any kind of update. I hadn’t.
“Having a total shit writing year so far so I’m clinging to anything positive ha,” was their response.
I told them I was sorry to hear that, and offered up my own frustratingly good-but-not-great batting average, along with a few words of encouragement in the vein of “much as it hurts to get thrown off, you just gotta keep getting back on the horse”.
They were in total agreement.
An hour or so later, the finalists were announced. I wasn’t one of them. But they were. Naturally, I was disappointed, but also happy for them because they had something good happen.
The takeaway here is that you’re not alone in this. Every other writer goes through it. We’re all going to have a lot of bad days, probably a lot more than the number of good days, and it can be tough to get through it, let alone come out stronger.
This is one of those added benefits to networking and connecting with other writers. You’re not just helping to develop your writing and analytical skills, you’re creating your own emotional support network.
Chances are you’ll have a stronger relationship with a small number of people; the ones you’ve interacted with, or shared scripts, exchanged notes, etc., on a more regular basis.
Don’t be afraid to reach out and tell one of them “Hey, I’m not feeling too good about this right now. Mind if I talk about it?” They’ll understand, and be supportive about it (in theory). Just being able to talk about it could help you feel a little better.
Screenwriting is complicated enough, and gets even more so when you throw all your hopes and ambition into it. Sometimes you’ll feel strong, powerful, ready to take on the world. And sometimes you’ll feel like the world’s beaten you to a bloody pulp with no hope for recovery. (Again, I’ve experienced both.)
You can’t force yourself to feel better and restore your confidence, but you can take little steps to help yourself out – at your own pace. And any help you might need is always there and easily accessible.
-Speaking of helping somebody out, friend-of-the-blog Leo Maselli is running a crowdfunding campaign for his anthology feature project CA SHORTS. Donate if you can!
Results are slowly trickling out for some of the big writing contests, and while hopes were high for my revised western, it once again failed to make the quarterfinals for PAGE.
My immediate reaction – that’s it. I’m done. No longer will I subject myself to that kind of humiliation!
And of course, later the same day, I was figuring out whether or not I should look into any further tweaking so as to get it ready for next year.
More than a few writing colleagues and connections voiced similar comments, ranging from the frustration of their lack of advancing in this contest, to the murkiness regarding the quality of contest readers overall, to the subjectiveness of it all, and whether contests are even worth it.
As you’d imagine, there’s a wide spectrum of opinions about all of these.
I dug up this post from last year which I believe sums things up quite nicely.
Contests aren’t the only way to break in, but a win or very high placement can help, or at least potentially open a door or two. It’s just one of the many routes a writer can take. Some writers are even fortunate enough to not even have to do them. I am not one of them.
A key component of all of this is persistence. There’ll be lots of disappointments, which can be…disappointing. And frustrating. Oh so frustrating. But learning to overcome those is just as important as learning how to tell a good story.
All you can do is send your script out there, hope for the best, and move on to whatever’s next. If things work out, great. If not, yeah, it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. It might feel like it, but it’s not.
Try to look at it as a learning experience – “How can I make this better?” Also a question with no easy answer, but how willing are you to put in the time and effort necessary to accomplish that?
(Author’s note – I wrote a lot of this earlier in the week, but circumstances of a confidence-instilling nature have occurred since then. I considered scrapping it and starting over, but thought the content was still relevant, so opted to stick with it. Enjoy.)
Let’s face it. Trying to make it as a screenwriter is an almost impossible task.
Emphasis on “almost”.
It can be done. Remember, every single writer whose name is up on there on the screen had to go through a lot of the same things you and I have. Probably even more.
The sad truth is that you will have to endure a lot of frustration before you start to even come close to achieving the results you want. And that frustration can easily lead to anger and depression and feeling like you’re wasting your time and this is never going to work out.
I say this because I’ve been that writer. Many times. This week was no exception. Several writer colleagues had some truly awesome things happen for them, and deservedly so.
Still, I can’t help but feel a slight pang of jealousy about it, but that’s all on me. In no way would I ever intend to divert the spotlight away from their success. They earned it, so they are more than entitled to enjoy it.
As for me, sure, I might wallow in self-pity for a little bit, but time and experience have helped me “get over it” faster, but the hurt does tend to linger.
Writing might be the last thing I want to do, but it’s actually been pretty therapeutic. Shifting your attention to another project – maybe one you haven’t worked on in months – helps with the emotional recovery process. Sometimes I’ll vent to another writer; usually someone who’s been through the exact same scenario.
Once I get all of that out of my system, the drive to succeed once again takes over, I get back on the horse and pick up where I left off – because the only way I’m going to make it is to keep trying, and that the only person who can make it happen is me.
That’s how it is for all of us. You’re not alone.
There will be so many situations where things don’t go your way. In the beginning, it feels like somebody’s stomping on your soul. But you eventually learn to accept that it happens, which helps toughen you up for the next time, of which there will also be many.
So on that note…
There will be a lot of times you just want to give up, or feel like the only word you ever hear is “no”, or have it seem like you’re the only writer on the face of the Earth not making progress.
Corny as it may sound, the best piece of advice I can offer is to keep at it. You will definitely hear “no” a thousand times before that one significant “yes”, but you won’t get it at all if you don’t keep going.
This is not a career path for the easily-defeated or the thin-skinned. I’ve had people tell me my story ideas were stupid and my writing was awful. One memorable character even thought my script was so terrible they were certain it was some kind of practical joke. Comments like that sting, but only temporarily. You learn to ignore them to the point they don’t even faze you anymore.
I’ve had the good fortune to make lots of connections with very talented people, many of whom have been more than willing to help me get closer to that goal.
I’m still here, still trying, determined as ever. And I sincerely hope you do the same.