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Friday, April 10, 2009

Secret to Your Success REVEALED

Flip through your most recent copy of Creative Screenwriting or Script Magazine and focus on the ads. Yeah - that's mine, very good, thank you. Nice artwork, I know.

Look, I'm a writer just like you. And I just saw an ad for a very cool looking writer's retreat - I've never been to one and they appeal to me mightily. I have a lifelong dream of going to Yaddo or enrolling in the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Maybe one day. A retreat strikes me as a great use of money and time. Because the rewards have legs. Teach a man to fish and all that.

But some of the other ads, the ones that promise to reveal some SECRET to success - those make me so uncomfortable. Because, Wavers, there is no big secret that someone can teach you that will magically make a sale for you. There. Just. Isn't. Believe it.

With the economy in a tailspin, we are all forced to make tough decisions and really look at our expenses and test each one for how much it is really needed. In times past, we all had more disposable income and it was easy and fun to go to Target and spend $200 on stuff and we didn't think twice. We need stuff, right? Take a look at your home - look at all your stuff. I bet you have a lot. I do.

And just like anyone else, I get the feeling that some new stuff will bring happiness, security, success - whatever. When I was married, I was a shopper. Because shopping alleviated boredom and stuff feathered my nest with - well, stuff. Looking back now I see that I had been the ideal consumer - stuff makes you happy! You NEED this Pottery Barn furniture because then you'll be just like the photograph of a stuff-filled home which connotes comfort, success and classiness! Oh, and relevancy and happiness! Oh, how ridiculous. Do you know that temporary high of getting something new? Your new car, new clothes, new iPhone - it's like a new toy and it provides entertainment - for awhile. Then it's just more stuff you have. And you're no happier. Or more successful. What a line of baloney we've all been fed.

We live in a consumer driven culture and yes, there is a lot of stuff that does enrich, educate and fulfill us. But you have to check in with yourself - am I getting this stuff because I'm bored? Am I getting this stuff because it promises me that I'll be happier? Or more successful? But - will it really? Honestly?

Don't get me wrong; I'm all about seeking out joy and fulfillment. But when particular products or services tell screenwriters that they will learn some huge SECRET that will OPEN THE DOORS TO HOLLYWOOD I get kind of uncomfortable.

Because, and I'll say it again - there is no big secret that everybody knows that you do not.

Wait - no - there is. I'm charging $53.99 per view of this big secret:

Ass in chair.

Okay, you can send payments to: bigsecret@thescriptdepartment.com. Go ahead. Operators are standing by.

As a service provider for aspiring screenwriters, I obviously believe that objective feedback is an important part of your development - otherwise you can write all you want and have no idea if you're improving. If I didn't truly believe that, if I hadn't benefited from it myself, if I didn't see the impact great feedback has on writers, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. Because I was born with a very strong ethical-ometer [technical term --Ed.] and I can't earn my living providing a service that writers don't actually need and also live with myself. I'm just not built that way. From time to time the board of directors of my company considers, then scraps, ideas that would earn us money but not really benefit you demonstrably. We just don't roll that way.

There are consumer junkies of every stripe. The techno-gadget junkies. The home furnishings and lifestyle junkies. The cosmetics and beauty supplies junkies. The DVD-buying entertainment system junkies. You name it. And for each type there is a whole industry set up to exploit the junkie and give him or her that HIGH of hope and safety and security.

Most screenwriters are pretty astute, but there are junkies in that world too. I have seen them browsing the tradeshows, snatching up armloads of books and software. I have seen them attend not one but three and four pitch fests each year. I have seen them attend not one but EVERY class and seminar. In a weird way, it's a great way to avoid actually writing. If you keep buying STUFF about screenwriting - somehow, by accretion, magically, your writing will improve.

R-i-g-h-t.

Look, I'm as guilty as some of you are - talking about screenwriting is way more fun than doing it. We'll do anything to avoid the terrifying quiet of sitting in front of our computers sometimes. And I really do get that.

But don't get taken for a fool. Big secret = bullshit.

I mean, look - of course you need to spend money on your screenwriting career. You do need to attend events, go to classes, buy some books and get feedback. It's all part of that five a day for writers I've spoken of before:

Write
Promote
Network
Learn
Live well


Check in with yourself before spending money on seminars, books and products. Is there a feeling there for you of desperation? Of a quick fix? If so - do NOT press "pay now." Be careful of where you spend your money and your time when it comes to screenwriting. New, better, faster and more is a myth. Ass. In chair. That's the only big secret. And even then, folks, even then, the odds are against you. Are you okay with that? You have to be.

Someone asked me the other day why I write The Rouge Wave. I thought about it for a minute. Because writing is really hard and isolating and I try to motivate you with humor and understanding. Because you need a cheerleader, a friend and a strict schoolmarm. Because sometimes you need to get over yourselves. Because somebody needs to tell the truth once in awhile. Because I want you to believe in yourselves. Honestly, I am YOUR fan, Wavers. I thank YOU for reading every day. Because writing is hard. But you're doing it against crazy odds. Because you can't help it. Because you have a story to tell. And because you want to express yourselves and make some sense in this crazy world. That is heroism. You are the ones who inspire me.

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3 comments:

Alexa said...

Thank you so much for this! This blog is fantastic because of how you focus on the important thing: the craft of writing and how to get better. Very entertaining. And encouraging!

Dave Shepherd said...

Wait. You mean I actually have to write? I did not sign up for this...

Trina0623 said...

Your comparison to shopping is so true. It's a catch-22 though right? We are a materialistic society that worships consumerism, yet that's the very thing that drives a robust economy.

Just like the screenwriters that go overboard with things related to writing -- it's all about moderation. Buying some books and going to some classes helps you learn, but you have to set a limit. And realize when you've gone beyond learning and into the realm of avoiding writing.

Just like you have to realize when you've gone beyond stimulating the economy by decorating your home and into the realm of an obsessed collector buried in a den of kitsch.