Dealing with Discouragement

Writer’s Block, discouragement, whatever you want to call it, some days nothing will seem to be going your way. Now what are you going to do about it?

Everyone gets discouraged. If you have a dream of being a screenwriter, there’s a good chance it won’t come easy. Nobody is going to spot you in a drug store, grab you by the shoulder, and haul you off to Hollywood because they think you’ll make a great screenwriter. The only way to succeed as a professional screenwriter, or a professional writer in general, is to produce results for other people. That simply means writing and improving your craft because if you’re not getting better, you’re falling behind.

If that discourages you, sorry, but that’s reality. If you’re easily discouraged about succeeding as a screenwriter, there’s a good chance you probably don’t want to be a screenwriter, but you want the rewards of being a screenwriter. In pursuing any goal, be careful that you don’t seek the rewards and ignore the goal. The goal is what will get you the rewards. If you chase after the goal, you’ll get the rewards, but if you chase the rewards, you’ll probably wind up getting nothing.

Being discouraged is part of life in general. You can’t expect everything to come easy, but you can expect that if you keep working, you’ll get better until you’ll be so good that they can’t ignore you any longer.

Here’s one mistake I see many novice screenwriters make. They write one script and spend all their time trying to sell that one script. That’s great, but you should always (yes, always) keep writing other scripts because you never know which one will finally sell. Plus, each script that you write simply makes you a better screenwriter. If your first five screenplays don’t sell, chances are good you’ll learn what you did wrong so you can keep writing better screenplays from that point on. Maybe your sixth screenplay will sell. Maybe your tenth screenplay will sell.

Sometimes screenwriters sell a script and suddenly the studios want to see what else you’ve written. If you’ve never written anything beyond one script, you’ll have nothing to show them, but if you’ve kept writing, you might have four or five other screenplays you can show them, and possibly sell as well.

Lawrence Kasdan wrote a script called “The Bodyguard,” which remained undeveloped for a decade. In the meantime, he kept writing and then George Lucas asked him to help write “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Based on these credits, Lawrence Kasdan finally got his first script, “The Bodyguard,” produced, which starred Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner.

The Chinese have a saying that success can be found right after the point where you’re about to give up. If you really want to become a screenwriter, don’t let anything get in your way. If you just want the rewards of being a screenwriter, then every little obstacle will get in your way.

Keep your eyes on your goal and never take it away. That’s the only formula for success that I know, and it’s where I’m at right now.

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