Back in December 2016, my boys turned one. They were cute and podgy and toddling all over the place like old drunks. They’d also been assailed by several winter bugs so sleep was something of a heady aspiration.
It was in the throes of all that noise and fatigue that I felt crazy enough to finally commit to my screenwriting dreams.
My plan: to finish a calling card TV pilot screenplay in a matter of months.
I started this blog (and joined Instagram) to chart my course and share my findings. I was full of gritty determination and, at times, even eighties-style fist-pumping enthusiasm depending on what music was playing and how much the boys had screamed at me that day.
But of course – of course – the reasons why I hadn’t written it up to that point hadn’t magically disappeared: the time restrictions; the presence of two magnificent, but demanding, children; my lack of experience; immense fatigue; procrastination; having to earn money and self-doubt were still very much part of the journey.
The reality: I’ve got as far as the second draft (and it’s been over a year).
So that brings me to lesson one of what I’ve learned so far:
1. It might take a while…
I know now that when making plans I should assume there will be quite a few roadblocks, like when I wanted to post this blog in December and found the site had crashed. Christ on a bike. Anyway, two months later than I wanted, here we are.
The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work. He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. He accepts that. He recognizes it as reality.
2. You’ve got to keep going
Shit happens. And it happens all the damn time. Such is this trickster called life. The key is to be as stubborn as life is unpredictable. So your boiler breaks on the coldest day of the year, yes, you need to get that fixed. But, you must turn to your dream and say: “I’m coming back for you, you son of a b****!” And indeed follow up on that promise/threat as soon as you can. Be relentless. Even the tiniest motion forward will add up. Eventually.
I’m going to keep on and not stop until it’s done. And you know what? I’m going to start another one after that because any good screenwriter has a few scripts under her belt. But hey, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
3. Create when you’re not inspired
Inspiration is a fickle beast. You mustn’t wait for the damn thing to show up or you’ll never get anything done.
Just do this: turn up and do the work. Sometimes the momentum of doing is all you need.
I sit at my PC and write. Sometimes what comes out is drivel. At first. Then, it flows better and ideas start sparking. I also know from watching my partner, a proper, paid TV writer, who has deadlines, that regardless of whether he feels it or not he just has to do the work. Often it’s the amateur that waits for inspiration and the real (working) writer who just gets on with it. That’s not to say he and I don’t act like airy artistes at times, because, yeah, but we still need to meet those deadlines.
4. Perfection is poison
Much like a nefarious toxin, perfection paralyses and chokes creativity. Throw it out. You need to play and make mistakes. Perfection is to blame for so many great projects dying on the vine, hidden incomplete in drawers or thrown in the bin. Please don’t let it kill yours.
Consider this: perfection is wildly subjective. You could twist yourself into knots getting something to a standard of “perfection” only to have it stamped on by someone else with different standards entirely.
Do your best by all means and aim for high quality. Do several iterations of your work so it’s as good as you can get it. Then, let it go, allow it to be and move on to the next project.
5. Don’t listen to everyone
Sometimes people have the answers we need. They provide different perspectives and can nurture us with validation and support. But the opposite is also true.
We humans are complex. Suffice it to say some will be irked by your enthusiasm and want to stamp on it. That’s life. But it becomes a problem if it stops you. Have you ever held back from doing something because of someone else’s disdain? Then you know what I’m talking about. Those arse-hats.
It can be better to take your own counsel. It’s a matter of self-belief which is rocky ground for most of us, but sometimes, just sometimes, we’re right.
I wish you wonderful things for 2018 – especially to be able to move forward, ever forward, towards your dreams.