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This week's question: 

I’ve written many screenplays and shown them to producers, but nobody has bought anything.  I’m feeling so discouraged.  How do I keep going?

Call me “Mr. D” (Mister Discouraged)

This week's Answer: 

Mister D,

Welcome to the arena known as “show business.”  In your case, you’ve done a lot of “show.”  (Congratulations.  You’ve actually finished scripts and managed to get some read!)  But haven’t done any business.  I’m no Pollyanna, but you could say that you’re already half the way there.  I know that may not seem like much, especially if you’re sitting with a pile of scripts that haven’t sold and a pile of bills that won’t pay themselves. (I could never understand why that is.)

Discouragement seems to part of the game, an aspect that must be mastered (Grasshopper) if one is to survive as a career screenwriter.   What’s that you say?  You don’t have a career to survive in?  That may be true now.  But did you ever notice that now’s have a way of changing?  And sometimes quickly.  Think of it:  All it takes is for one producer out of a zillion  (I think I counted that many in the latest Hollywood Creative Directory) to decide to film your script and you’re in... after he puts together the millions he needs, finds and secures the main actors, and sets up a thousand other little things... On second thought... forget it.  (Did I mention I wasn’t a Pollyanna?).  Now where was I?  Oh, yeah:  encouragement.  Or was it discouragement?  Well, both words have the root word “courage.” So what can we glean from that fact?  Could it be that, when you allow yourself to be discouraged, you’re “disin’” your own courage? 

Another way to look at it is to stop that internal battle that wages between the “light you” who tries to bravely keep on truckin’ against all odds and the “dark you” who is continually undermining that effort and working overtime to convince you that your chances of selling a script are as good as you growing wings and flying over the “Hollywood” sign.  (Hey, that’s a good image.  Anyone who uses it in their Hollywood-in-house screenplay, be sure to send me a royalty.)  Why not step off that battlefield altogether, put the sword down (keep the pen; you’ll need it) and just keep writing?  Think of all the time and energy you’ll save that you can channel into sitting in front of your computer or paper trying to come up with a winning idea that will finally catapult you into that echelon of Screenwriters Who Have Sold Only One Script.  Do you see where I’m going here?  It’s not the destination; it’s the... the... (“Journey, Master.)  Oh, right.  Thank you, Grasshopper.  Journey.  And, Grasshopper... speak up a little, will you?  What I’m trying to get across to you, Mister D. and dear reader, is that you never arrive.  Oh, sure, it’s nice to visit stops along the way (FirstOptionton, InitialSalesville, Sixfigureburg, ThreePictureDealdelphia, AcademyAwardia, etc.) and I’m not saying that isn’t an exciting travelogue.  But would you really want all that glamour and prestige without the satisfaction of having put forth the creative labor each and every step of the way?  (Okay, even if I hadn’t written a word, I’d be hard pressed not to walk to the Academy Awards stage to accept the Oscar for best screenplay.  I need a heavy paperweight.  I mean it’s only a statue.  All right, I admit it:  I would display Oscar on my mantle... bathed by track lighting... and a spotlight... and every time you touch it, “We Are The Champions” would blare from Marshall speakers spaced throughout the room.  But still...) Think how empty it would be to just find yourself with your laurels without ever having embarked on that thrilling odyssey known as screenwriting for half your life, never knowing if anybody will ever see your work on screen.  Now, isn’t that an exciting prospect?

I’m not saying you couldn’t ride the Wheel of Fortune to gold the first time.  But, just in case that doesn’t happen, why not choose to do your best to enjoy the ride?  For a ride, or rather, a roller coaster, it probably will be.  Just try not to get carried away by the highs and lows of it.  Instead, stay true to your Creative Self, express what must be expressed, don’t take anything too personally (what do agents, producers, critics, your mother know, anyway?).  And one more thing:  Don’t try to do a screenwriting career alone.  There are plenty of discouraged writers you can team up with.  Why not start a support group?  DSWA.  Discouraged Screenwriters Anonymous. (Most of them are anonymous, so that works well.) Or how about just SWA?  Screenwriters Anonymous.    Hi, I’m Mr. D. and I’m a screenwriter.  Hi, Mr. D.  Welcome!


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