I often hear from so many people that they just can’t seem to get over that hump of winning that big prize; the screenwriting contest. No matter how hard they work, it often seems they never get what we want. Somebody else is winning the contests, that person you work with is getting the pitch meetings, a friend of yours just landed a top Hollywood agent. Why is it that life is unfair, but it’s never unfair in our favor?
Simple. It is fair, your perception is out of balance. Right now at this very instant in your life, you have everything that you want.
The car, home, finished screenplays – everything you’ve accomplished is by your own design. Sure, it’s easy to say that we want to be a sought after screenwriter, the one who won every top screenwriting contest in existence. But what are you willing to risk to get it?
Unconsciously we are always in competition with other people. You get the idea that you want more from something you’ve seen, or heard. For example, you read about that person who landed a writing job based on their contest winning screenplay; or perhaps that screenplay is in pre-production. You wonder, why can’t that be me?
Before you get yourself worked up about their gains, versus your – well they’re not really losses – let’s call them non-gains, ask yourself: What does that person do each day? I’ve spoken to people from all aspects of the film and TV industry. I’m particularly interested in the people who are able to get their script to the top of the contest heap. You’ll find that their day goes something like this:
They wake up at 5:00 every morning to review what they wrote the previous night. Most of them have jobs outside of the film and TV industry, so they have to be at work by 8 or 9am. Some of them have notebooks so they can jot down ideas during lunch. Their idea of unwinding after work may be some exercise or family time, but then it’s back to writing until they collapse at their computer just before midnight.
Weekends are spent in writing workshops where they get feedback on their scripts. Then it’s back to more rewriting. While their friends may be out meeting up at bars or going out to dinner, the future contest winning screenwriter may be eating leftovers at their computer.
“Wait a minute! I have a family, I enjoy my free time and I don’t want to work at all hours of the night. I want to have a social life, I like hanging out on the weekends,” you might say to yourself.
And there you have it, that’s why the other person’s name is in the trades when the winners are announced. I’m not saying that they are a better writer or better person than you. They work harder at it. Recognize the fact that this is the price they are willing to pay.
Nobody gets wash-board abs by sitting in front of a TV every evening. A body builder has to have the discipline to hit the weights and cardio machines. Your “gym” is your computer and writer’s groups.
I’ve talked with world class screenwriters who have worked on one story for over ten years! It just took that much time for the characters, setting and dialogue to come together. During that time, they may have written other scripts, but that one took a great deal of time. Nobody ever wrote a screenplay by sitting back and wondering, “Why can’t I do that?”
Just as the main character in your script has to figure out what they are willing to sacrifice to get what they want, you have to understand what you are willing to put up with – and give up – to win a contest. It’s not about stacking yourself up against other people. It is about setting your personal priorities.
There’s a saying that says, “The person at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” Start climbing.
Coming up next: We talked about using New Media to give your writing a test drive. It’s time to dig a little deeper and come up with a game plan to make it work for you. If you’re serious about getting what you wrote before the eyes of actors, agents and producers, you’ll want to read New Media Part 2 – Let’s Get to Work!