Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

I used to hear this at the office all the time -- if you want to move up the ladder, you have to act like you already have the job on the rung above you before they'll think you can have it.

This also applies to screenwriting.

I appreciate all of the comments and encouragement regarding my recent 'rejection', but let's face it...contests aren't writing jobs. Contests don't make careers...well, maybe the Nicholl, but that's different. No, if I want to be a working writer, I have to BE a working writer...even if I'm not being paid for it. I have to "dress" for the job I want, not the job I have.

I do not want to be perceived as a hobbyist or amateur. I am not those things. I am a working writer who is not yet being paid to write. The more I reinforce that for myself, the more likely I am to actually become a paid writer.

Have a game plan. Don't just write your spec, figure out what you are going to do with it.

In my most recent class, I was asked to list the 5 things I was going to do in the next year to work toward my career goal (and of course, I had to state that goal). Fortunately, I could think of more than 5 things I was going to do, but the benefit of this exercise is it gives you small goals to achieve. So, in 2006, I'll be doing the following:

  • Writing a 'Cold Case' spec
  • Rewriting my 'Lost' spec
  • Continuing to maintain and make new contacts in TV and film which can help me...
  • Get an agent.
  • Meanwhile, I'll keep writing. I'll finish my pilot spec this year.
What is your gameplan? If you are working on a spec, when do you want to finish it? When do you want to rewrite it? When do you want to send out query letters or the script itself. Stop preparing for contests that may get you nowhere in terms of a writing career...unless, that's your interest. If you are writing just to enter writing contests, well, then, you are on a different path. If you are writing because you want to BECOME A PAID WRITER, you need a plan.

Screenwriting isn't a hobby for me, and I'm no longer going to treat it as such. What are you going to do?


Bill Cunningham said...

Good, solid advice, Shawna. Wish more people had that attitude.

Happy Holidays!


Guyot said...

I'd hire you. ;-)

Chris said...

I'm going to do the exact same thing I was going to do before I had even heard of Writer's Arc: get my script(s) in shape, get my stuff together, and move out to LA to do this for real. But now I will do it having one script in the can that I know is of some quality. And having actually pitched ideas to someone in the industry. And having developed those ideas to the point that I can have a first draft of one ready before I make the move. So even though the results aren't what I had hoped for, just going through the process has put me that much closer to what I want to do and I haven't even left for California yet. I can't be upset about that much. Even a fellowship is just a first step in the journey and, ultimately, isn't going to take you any further than your own talents and hard work allow it to.

Shawn said...

Right on, Shawna. This is the right attitude. I figured out after going the contest route that it's neither helpful nor productive, unless you do well in Nicholl (which I haven't). The key is getting good scripts into the right hands. How to do that? Therein lies the problem. It's all about networking, which you've written good entries on before.

I’ve got to work on developing a good, proactive plan myself. Right now I’ve been throwing my scripts at people like spaghetti at the wall to see if they’ll stick. I’ve got a feature spec at a management company, but other than that I have very few options. So indeed, a plan is needed. I’ll post more about this on my blog if you’re interested.

I’m also writing a spec Cold Case. It’s more difficult than I thought. I’d like to hear how it goes for you.

schmadrian said...

I've just recently come across your blog via Screenwriters Network. So much of your journey is foreign to me, but much resonates. Thirteen years ago, I dropped my career, moved to a small ski town and returned to writing a novel I'd begun some seven years prior. Five million words' worth of research and 2000 pages of manuscript later, I conceded I wasn't able to 'finish' it. Since then I've moved to England and back, am currently in the middle of my third effort at making writing a viable occupation having made writing my sole objective (I won't be 'working' over the next year). I'm primarily a screenwriter these days and have almost ten scripts under my belt, ranging from shorts to features to mini-series. My goals are my own, but I think if I had to pick out one piece of hard-earned wisdom from all my travails it would be this:

'Effort does not equal success.'

That is, your conviction, your passion, the amount of time you put into your the end, they don't matter one whit unless your efforts are FOCUSED.

The four years I spent writing my novel were the most fulfilling, the most exhausting, the most exhilarating of my life and I learned *so* much, gained so many tools both in a writing-sense and a Life-sense...but they did not result in the goal I had always dreamed of. Because my focus was not clear, because I did not have a sufficient enough, a salient enough plan.

So Shawna, I agree with you completely.

Passion isn't enough. Talent isn't enough. Effort isn't enough. If you truly want whatever it is that you want...set a plan.

Merry Christmas to us all. Everyone.

Ben said...

Speaking of dressing like a writer, I just watched some special features on the LOST Season 1 DVD, and it sounded as though JJ Abrams immediately decided to like Damon Lindelof merely because DL was wearing a vintage Star Wars t-shirt and funky black-framed glasses (similar to JJ's).

Captain Oats said...

Amen, sister friend. This post gave me a good kick in the arse to get more focused for the new year... and that's why I love your blog.

By the way, I know this is random, but I do tend to get taken more seriously at work and as a writer when I wear my "JJ Abrams" glasses.

Anonymous said...

dressed for success... but what if we do all our best writing naked?.....just kidding, I meant naked emotions...rock on Shawna, good luck to you in 06, this will be my year too