I have always wanted to be a writer or to be more exact, I have always wanted to be a screenwriter.
The first time I ever said “I want to be a screenwriter” out load was probably in Bahrain in the mid-nineties. Why the location matters I don’t know. Worse, what I actually think I said was “I am a screenwriter” – without ever having put pen to paper.
For the first five years of being a “writer”, I wrote zero words on zero pages. Then, for the next five years, I would dabble here and there with the odd scene or idea or rough outline for the hundreds of stories I wanted to tell.
It’s hard to remember the exact date, but I think I wrote my first screenplay back in 2004. When I say first, I mean the first one I actually finished. You could say that in my very early writing days I was just honing my art but in truth, I was just a lazy little nubber.
Why did it take so long to actually finish something?
I have a hundred excuses that I could give you about being too busy or lacking the right tools etc but the truth is I’m pretty sure it came down to one simple thing – Fear.
Fear of receiving the following:
“Many thanks for sending us a sample of your work, which we have considered with care. Regretfully we are unable to offer you representation at this time. We nevertheless wish you good fortune with your work in the future.”
I wonder how many times I have been sent the above message or something similar. Not from the same person, obviously – I haven’t stalked one agent over the last few years – It’s the generic “thanks, but no thanks” email when sending out either a screenplay or novel to the many, many agents out there. And boy, does it hurt. Even now. I can’t help but take it personally, but then, why wouldn’t I?
As I write this a new rejection has just arrived in my inbox – There were some very kind words, but at the end of the day, a no is still a no.
Do not underestimate the huge part rejection plays in the life of a writer and although it does get easier the more rejections you get (joy!), I can still take it pretty hard. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t crawl up into a ball and hide under the bed for weeks (Liar!), but it does knock my confidence and my determination – Two things I am going to need if I am to continue and eventually succeed.
Continue. Carry on. Get on with it. Never stop fighting till the fight is done.
Rejection is hard to take and frequently given, but here’s the rub – If you want to be a screenwriter or any kind of writer for that matter, you’ve got to put pen to page. And then, when it’s finally written, it has to come out of that desk drawer and into the light.
You’ve got to give yourself a chance.
I won’t lie to you – I am a sensitive kinda fellow, especially when it comes to my writing. Whenever I get praise for something I’ve written my confidence goes through the roof for a day or two. But when I get a rejection it takes far longer to get back on the horse, sometimes weeks. Perhaps we are all the same – We seem to allow the few negatives to outweigh the huge amount of positives in many aspects of our lives. And positives can be few and far between in this business.
It’s weird – A bad “review” and it confirms what I already know deep down – I cannot write. A good “review” and my first reaction is that they must be pulling my chain and laughing at my expense.
Now I know what you are probably thinking – “Maybe he just can’t write” – and you might very well be correct, but there have been enough little victories over the years to keep me going.
And that’s what we have to hang on to – Victories.
You’ve got to take each victory when it comes and let it drive you onwards. It doesn’t matter how small they are, each one counts.
Typed the first word of your story? Victory!
Hit your 1,000-word target for the day? Victory!
You finished your screenplay? Victory!
Got through the first round of a competition? Victory!
Someone passed on your script but loved your dialogue? Victory!
Pitched to a producer and they asked for a meeting? Victory!
I read a blog recently that had a page dedicated to what she called “The balance sheet” – A list of all the good and bad events that have happened to her as a writer – I think it’s a fantastic idea and I’ve had a rough go at it already – I was surprised at how many victories there have been.
We suffer so many defeats but it’s the little victories that we must cling to.