A journey of a thousand screenplays begins with the first word
This is a mantra that many aspiring screenwriters swear by. But many also fail to take that first step to become an actual screenwriter.
You’ve got a ton of story ideas, read a few books on screenwriting, attended a masterclass or two, but you still can’t get past the blank page. Sound familiar? You’ve even come up with a title for your screenplay and typed in “Fade In.” You’ve actually made a start. Then you go on an extended break to think about your screenplay. Upon your return, you write a scene and promptly delete it.
You return to your outline and rearrange it before writing another scene, which you delete as well. Negative thoughts swirl around your head – What if my screenplay is bad? What if I’m bad? Should I go back to my legal career?
Why do we self-sabotage our careers? You left the law profession for a reason. You wanted to become a screenwriter. But you become paralyzed and can’t make any progress. Why does this happen?
It all comes down to one word – FEAR. Fear is a natural human emotion designed to protect us from harm. It’s not designed to prohibit us from realizing our potential as storytellers. Recognize your negative feelings and manage them.
Which definition of FEAR applies to you?
Change requires a decision that change is required. A decision to get out of your own way, out of your comfort zone. Here are some ways to identify and overcome your fears:
1) What Are You Scared Of?
Most often it’s a fear of failure. Screenwriting is a tough business and the odds of success are low. Frightening, but true. But it’s not a good enough reason not to pursue your goal.
Imagine the piles of rejection letters. Are you a bad writer? Only if you believe you are. There is always room for improvement. Even A-list writers hear NO regularly. As in daily, if they have enough material. It only takes one YES to negate all the NOs.
If working screenwriters get rejected, what chance do you have to break in? It’s healthy to have a realistic view of a viable screenwriting career. Realistic, not nihilistic.
You have to be in it for the long haul and understand that a string of rejections will make that single success that much sweeter. Don’t give up after your first few scripts. Treat them as stepping stones as your craft improves. In fact, when you send a screenplay off for consideration, start the next one before you receive a response.
Then there’s the fear of success. That’s a deeper concern for anxious screenwriters. Will you be able to write your award acceptance speech? Should you buy or hire an appropriate outfit? What about all the paparazzi and journalists wanting a scoop? Let your publicist worry about that. Those are the least of your worries.
Identify your fear of failure and recognize it as a temporary feeling. Don’t dwell on it. If you ignore it, it will go away.
2) Your Comfort Zone Is Your Hazard Zone
3) You Settle For Less
Settling for less than your potential is related to staying in your comfort zone. Both end badly. It’s also related to your self-esteem. Despite much of the screenwriting business not being controlled by you, sitting at your keyboard is. You have the power to write your screenplay without permission. Visualize your idyllic writing life. Practice that acceptance speech. Take progressive daily action until it manifests.
4) You’re Not Resilient
Maybe you can set it up elsewhere in another format or it sparks a new idea?
A smooth sea never made a good sailor
Let yourself grieve and do some soul-searching, but never succumb to your negative self-talk. Your perceived failure is an opportunity to grow. Surround yourself with positive and supportive influences.
5) You Compare Your Career Path To Others
Don’t compare your first draft with another writer’s tenth
6) Excuses Excuses
Then burn them. That’s right. Have a fire extinguisher handy. Excuses don’t serve a higher purpose.