Last week’s LATimes article ran in Chicago Tribune today.
The message I am getting from this is that living my whole life as a writer, writing for years and years meant nothing. Growing up as the annoying kid on the street who wrote plays and tried to force peers to perform them, going to screenwriting seminars, blogging daily (exercise) for 12 years, staying up for days and days to finish scripts was a waste of my goddamn time. The message I’m getting here is that you can write a few funny tweets and become a screenwriter. It’s the American Dream, and this Canadian is calling bullshit.
Twitter has connected me to other writers. Twitter has given me a fan base that is almost 50 times as large as my original blog. Make no doubt that famous and powerful fans have bolstered my ‘star-meter.’ BUT- There are plenty of other people on Twitter with all of the above and no career in writing. Why? Because none of these things matter if you can’t or don’t produce. No connections can get you a pilot sale, or sell your feature screenplay if you don’t fucking WRITE IT AND THEN SELL IT.
I’ve received exactly 41 emails this week from strangers who want to know what my trick (to selling a spec. feature to WB, to selling a spec. pilot to CBS, to selling a book to Harper Collins, to getting an offer to write an NBC pilot..etc) was, so here it is:
Write and write and fucking write and when you think you’re done and you hate everything you are writing you are almost halfway there. You’d better enjoy writing a LOT because that’s all you are going to be doing for the rest of your days if you want to make a living at it.
24/7… it’s writing.
It’s that Sunday night before a Monday when your book report is due and you haven’t begun your opening paragraph—-Every. Single. Day.
There is no ‘trick’ to becoming a working screenwriter.
You can’t game the system.
I can think of one small exception. Producers calling on Justin for his ‘Shit My Dad Says’ feed. But that was a goddamn miracle and he was not trying to game the system. There is a greater chance that a car is going to fall from a tree and crush you and then you are going to come back to life as a White Walker and take the seven kingdoms for your own than something like that EVER happening to you, or me or anyone ever again.
It didn’t happen like that for me, it won’t happen like that for you.
And you know what? Justin, son of Shit, is a writer. He writes and writes and sweats and he was a writer before Producers came calling and he writes his ass off now.
This is what you can do:
1. Be a good writer. You don’t have to be amazing, but be a very good writer and above all have a point of view. Be honest when you write, because when you try to be something you are not, it shows (and when it shows it stinks)
2. Write. Write a lot, all the time. Every day. Re-write. Never show people your first drafts, trust me, it’s crap. The beauty of writing is that you can take 4 days to write that one page and make that page so beautiful that people cry/laugh/shit themselves when they read it.
3. Get your writing out there. Make videos, start a website. Self-publish and self-promote.
If you’re thinking “That’s a lot of work for something that might not pay off.”
THEN THIS IS NOT YOUR BAG SORRY.
You do that, and you do it with NO HOPES OF EVER MAKING A LIVING AT IT.
You do that because you love it and coming home to it is what gets you through your long shifts at the restaurant, it gets you through folding $200 jeans for the entire day, it makes you not want to kill yourself while you photocopy and sign paperwork for your paycheck.
If you aren’t already doing it because you love it, you probably aren’t a writer.