Thursday, December 04, 2008

Professional Screenwriter, Step 7: Attitude

Or ‘Learning to Love Rejection’.

One of the more important aspects of whether you’ll make it or not is your ability to deal with rejection. There’s no denying that it sucks, and it hurts, and it is very personal (just not personal to the person rejecting you), but it’s how you dust yourself off and keep writing that will determine whether you can cut it in the biz. You’ll need a steely resolve, a desire to improve, belief that you can make it, that you really do have talent, and the humility to accept that you might not succeed, despite having all the necessary qualities to do so.

There’s a fine line between determination and delusion, unfortunately. You can tell yourself that ‘I’m gonna make it, no matter what’, and have all the will in the world, and perhaps even some talent, but the chips may not fall your way and the effects can be damaging. ‘Successful writers have one thing in common, they didn’t give up’. True. But it wasn’t JUST their desire to succeed that got them where they are today. They knew, even when they were getting rejected for the 100th time, that they had what it takes, and nobody was going to stop them from writing. For most of us, talent and determination will get you so far, while Lady Luck will have a strong say on which side of the fence you fall.

Making a living as a screenwriter is going to take time. It’s not going to happen overnight, or within a few months. You’ll be extremely lucky if it happens within a few years. Yes, there are those who can jump straight into the professional pool but these success stories are the ones you read in the paper, and are few and far between. The real success stories are the writers who toil away at their craft and their scripts, hoping one day something will break, and that it won’t be their hearts.

If you’re in it for the money, forget it, it’s not going to happen. There is good money to be made but it’s not just handed out willy nilly. You have to earn your place in the system, and work hard for your reward. In the early days of your career, if you’re lucky enough to get a few breaks, the money won’t be regular, and it will be a struggle to survive. That’s when you realise that even when you’re ‘making it’, it’s still just as hard as before, if not harder, as you have to maintain momentum, create more stories and find more work.

It’s exhausting. Physically and mentally. Did you see Eamonn McCabe's "Writers’ Rooms portraits" recently, and there’s one where the writer has a bad back and has to lie on an orthapaedic chair in order to write. She writes facing the ceiling. Now, I’ve got a bad back and have had a couple of operations but – ouch! – at least I can sit upright and focus on the computer. Imagine the will and desire that’s needed to lie down and write. Every day.

There is one positive about rejection. It means you’re doing the right thing. You’re writing, and sending your scripts out into the world. Rejection is the norm but some knock backs are more crushing than others. It will make you question whether you want to continue, and poke you with bothering doubts about your talent. It takes a brave person to know when they’ve been beaten, and to hang up their spurs. It takes a braver one to continue, knowing that they’re going to make it. Some day.

On a personal note, some notable rejections that hit me hard (although the list is endless). The Writers' Academy. Not just the once, which I blogged about, but twice (2nd time not even shortlisted, even after direct encouragement to apply again). Then, I was given a crack at EastEnders. Confident and excited! Did the trial episode. Rejected. Blimey. At least I had ideas at Doctors that were awaiting commission but they were spiked and not used. 2006 was a bad year, and I hit an all time low. I very nearly got a 'proper job'. But no. I stuck at it, and got a few promising breaks along the way. This year, EastEnders gave me another go at a trial episode. I did it, determined not to miss this time, and have just been offered a commission! Get in! I start this Friday. CAN. NOT. WAIT.

33 comments:

Laura Anderson said...

Brilliant! I'm sure you need no luck to do well with it, but I'm sending some your way anyway.

*wafts air with hands*

Loving this series of posts btw :-)

laurence timms said...

Bloody excellent! And I second what Laura said - very damn useful series of posts. I've printed them out and stapled them to the back of Adrian Mead's book.

Near by said...

You go Danny!!

Neil said...

Luck is very important. I'm just starting out and I got quite lucky. The verdict's still out on whether the person I'm writing for at the moment will get me places and make be well known, but it can't do any harm. I happened to see his advert on facebook and applied immediately. Now I've co-written 4 scripts (with him and a few others). Hopefully it will help my career and if not, then the experence has been good and I've made some good contacts. Now that's luck. Granted it was my "determination" that made me join screenwriting groups and reply to the advert, but it was luck that I saw it only 2 minutes after it was posted.

Glad you're going places, Danny!

-Neil
writewithhonour.blogspot.com

Jez Freedman said...

nice one danny (in my head I can hear the dum dum dum dumming at the end of Eastenders)

Adrian said...

Congratulations Danny

Danny Stack said...

Aw, thanks everyone!

potdoll said...

Congratulations Daniel Spaniel!! Yayyyy!

David Bishop said...

He shoots, he scores! Top news Mr D, and a hearty congratulations. Nice to know all the hard work pays off...

Darren Goldsmith said...

Yeah... super job!

Now, can you make EE good, please?

But seriously... well done!

Andy Phillips said...

Wonderful news, Danny!

The STACKMAN cometh.

terraling said...

Way to go Danny boy. Can you do miserable?

Nice post. Give all those (alright, us) people who you binned for Red Planet a pep talk before slipping in your good news...

Kevin said...

Danny, I remember specifically reading your blog at Christmas 2006 and it was horribly negative. I remember being really rattled by how difficult it was for you, as I was trying to motivate myself after some rejections. It's absolutely great to see you succeeding now and how quickly it's all come. I can't wait to see you go from strength to strength. Good luck on Monday!

Lara said...

As I said t'other night - way to go mate! x

Antonia said...

Well done!!

Your story just proves what you've been saying all along - believe in yourself.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations from a newbie (this is my first ever blog comment). I find it hugely encouraging to hear that your second trial EE ep succeeded - I'm the sort who would be put off by my failing the first time (convince myself I wasn't right for them etc etc). Well done for persistence and onward and upward mastering of your craft.

I'm an ex soap writer myself, and have heard that the script editors at EE can sometimes give writers a bit of a hard time so be strong and prepared for that (hopefully won't be necessary, but just in case). Stay positive, upbeat, never weary of the endless drafts, and I'm sure you'll get commission after commission. Good luck!

Sal said...

Congratulations.

If anybody is interested in writing for EastEnders, I recently interviewed the show's script producer Sharon Batten for Screenwriting Goldmine. Members can download the audio interview. Basically, if you don't have an agent, your way in is through writersroom and a spec script full of sparkling dialogue.

sam morrison said...

Danny, well done mate, couldn't happen to a nicer or more deserving bloke.

By the way, when do we get to step 17: now successful, you systematically crush everyone who told you you'd never make it?

Claire said...

Congratulations on Eastenders Danny! Excellent series of posts too - I'm fairly new to this blog and am finding them both helpful and inspiring...

Having had plenty of ups and downs myself, I've recently decided to put faith in the fact that any time I have been on the point of deciding that I'm in the delusional/never going to happen camp, something happens to give me just enough encouragement to carry on. I figure that has to mean something. Or maybe the universe is playing a cruel joke. Anyway...

Caroline said...

Congratulations on your EE news!

Really good post. I'm not sure anyone can prepare you for the sheer number of rejections when you start out screenwriting. The ones that hit me hardest are the people who just never reply. It somehow feels like they were *so* underwhelmed by your work that they couldn't even lift their fingers to the keyboard to write "No thanks".

Darren Goldsmith said...

“They knew, even when they were getting rejected for the 100th time, that they had what it takes, and nobody was going to stop them from writing.”

OK… joking aside, how do you really tell whether you’re deluded or not? Delusion, by its very nature, would make you think you really had it in you, right?

laurence timms said...

Darren: you should be able to tell whether you're deluded or not by getting some genuine feedback from other writers. If you're willing to pay, get some constructive feedback from script readers too. It's really not that expensive and well worthwhile.

If you're kidding yourself about being a writer, you'll find out about it this way. Friends and family won't - or can't - tell you, I'm afraid.

Robin Kelly said...

Wow! Well played Danny!

Eleanor said...

Yay Danny! That's great news.

Spec Odyssey said...

Well done Danny, you deserve it.

Danny Stack said...

Thanks again everyone! You're embarrassing me, stop it!

William Gallagher said...

Talk about burying the lead! Fantastic news, very well done.

William

Stuart Perry said...

Huge Congratulations on the 'Enders gig, Danny!

Jonny Quest said...

Hey Danny, Congrats on the Enders gig!! One of my current career goals is to reach the writers academy.

Secondly just another comment to tell you how amazing this series is, I wait with baited breath for the next installment. In fact I have added links to this series twice in my blog and quoted it in my blog!!!

Keep up the stellar work my good man, and Good Luck with those cockney cobblers.

Peace
JQ

thejammod said...

CONGRATS. All that hard work has paid off :D

Anonymous said...

Danny, I've come to the conclusion that you're nothing short of a National Treasure with your excellent, inspiring - and dare I say, idiot-proof - blog advice. I hope you'll continue to write it as your career takes off.

Wyndham

Fiona said...

Just when I was about to put Step 5 into practice, I just got a major rejection. 350 applicants, shortlisted to top 9, then to top 5. Only three were chosen but mine wasn't one of them. Thank God and thank Danny for Step 7!

Janice Okoh said...

wonderful news. And EE is great.