7 Ways to Stay Motivated as an Aspiring Screenwriter
by Angela Bourassa
One of the hardest truths to learn about screenwriting is just how darn hard it is to break in. I think a lot of us (myself included) assumed when we wrote our first screenplays that we were talented enough and special enough and our idea was original and cool enough that it would win contests and sell. Little did we know…
If you’ve written three, six, or fifteen screenplays and haven’t yet managed to land a rep, get an option, or win a big contest, it can be very hard to stay motivated and keep pushing towards your dream of professional screenwriting. We’ve all been down in the dumps about our own writing, maybe feeling that the system is rigged or worrying that we’ll never be good enough. When you start to feel like this dream that you are so incredibly passionate about is a lost cause, here are a few ways that you can pick yourself back up and stay motivated:
1. Write something new
One of the best ways to get out of a writing funk is to set aside what you’ve been working on, the thing that hasn’t been as well-received as you’d hoped, and start chugging on something new. If you stay stuck on one script for too long, you’re not going to make it in this business, so don’t let yourself get stuck. Move onto what’s next, and allow yourself a fresh start.
2. Remember that writing work is never wasted
If you write an entire draft of something – maybe even a few drafts – and then have the horrible realization that the script just plain doesn’t work, don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time. The way to become a better writer is to write, so all the writing you do – even writing that ultimately comes up short – helps you become a better writer for that next script. And scenes you cut, trimmed jokes, characters that don’t quite pan out… who’s to say they won’t be useful in your next story? Keep a file of all the things you like that don’t quite work and peruse it every now and then. You may just get struck by an idea for how to resuscitate something you thought was dead.
3. Revisit an old script
This can serve one of two purposes. Going back to a script that you put in a drawer may show you how far your writing has come, which is a great reminder that you’ll keep getting better as long as you keep writing and working on your craft. Or you may discover that the thing you wrote is actually pretty good. It’s amazing how a little space from a script can give you fresh eyes – and make it that much less painful to chop it up and write a new, better draft.
4. Remember just how big this goal is
This may sound counter-intuitive, but I personally find it helpful to remember just how few people actually get paid to write screenplays. I’ve heard it said many times that the number of paid screenwriters is less than the number of players in the NFL. Being a professional screenwriter is roughly equivalent to being a professional athlete – it takes that much time and practice and dedication.
Another way to look at it is through a corporate lens – we’re all applying to be C-level execs of big companies, but there are very, very few assistant, junior exec, or even VP positions along the way. So when you meet someone new, tell them you’re a writer, and they ask if they’ve seen any of your stuff (grrr), remind yourself that you ARE climbing that corporate ladder. You ARE somewhere in the minor leagues. You just haven’t made it to the C-suite/pros just yet. But you’re working on it.
5. Celebrate the small victories
I’m often guilty of finishing a draft of a script and just moving on without taking a moment to celebrate. Taking time to recognize your achievements – writing for 30 days in a row, finishing a page-one rewrite, making the quarterfinals in a competition – will help you stay motivated and on track. You’ll hear “no” and “it wasn’t for me” so many times in this business. Don’t focus on that. Focus on the wins, no matter how small.
6. Listen to your champions, not your detractors
Likewise, pay attention to the people in your life who think your screenwriting goal is so cool and who love to read drafts of your scripts. Even if they know nothing about film and can’t give good notes, these people are important to your well-being.
7. Enter some small contests in addition to the big boys
If you’re only sending your scripts to Nicholl and Austin every year, you’re probably doing yourself a disservice, because those are among the most competitive competitions on the planet. No, you can’t enter every competition out there, nor should you – you’re not made of money – but choosing a few boutique competitions suited to your particular script or that offer a great prize package that extends beyond the winners can be a great way to improve your odds and help keep you motivated.
The Write/LA Final Deadline is July 15. Enter now at FilmFreeway.