So I got this e-mail a little while back, but it turned out that recently a script I wrote was an Official Selection of the 2018 Smashcut Screenplay Competition. This signifies that my script was among the top 35 submissions.
I tell you this for a couple of reasons. One is that I hope as you read any of my writing advice you understand that it is from someone who has invested at least some amount of time in learning this craft. This extra piece of information helps me signal that to you. The other is that I want you to understand that it is an accomplishment I got despite not really having any formal screenwriting training. I got to where I am by writing, letting people give me notes, revising, researching other people’s ideas about screenwriting, and expanding my networks. I want to take a little bit of time to tell you more of my personal story because I do think there’s lessons to be learned from it.
The particular organization that hosted this competition is Taliesin Nexus, a group that helps pro-liberty people launch showbiz careers. I found out about them through other pro-liberty organizations back when my former self was considering a career in political activism. I knew I liked movies and started trying to write scripts before learning of their existence, but I must say there was some added inspiration in knowing there was an organization specifically for people like me and helping them get where I wanted to go. There was suddenly a more obvious bridge between the kind of work I was doing and the kind of work I wanted to do in the future.
Getting involved with Taliesin Nexus has helped me connect with other writers who can give me notes, including some notes on the script I submitted in this particular contest. It’s also given me the opportunity to give notes to others which is an exercise that any aspiring writer should do whenever they can. Partly for the “they’ll owe you one” aspect, partly because it really will help improve your writing if you get decently good at providing constructive criticism to others.
The overall point of this blog post, which I know is not as practical as some of the others in this series, is that progress only happens if you at least try. The thing that all successful people have in common is that they tried. While it’s true that I haven’t made as much progress in my writing career as Anne-of-four-years-ago was hoping for, it’s also true that I’ve made WAYY more progress than if Anne-of-four-years-ago didn’t do anything.
A lot of times there isn’t an obvious connection between the success you want and where you are now. Unfortunately the only way for that journey to become clear is take the first step. Try SOMETHING. Get out in the world and meet people who share your interests. Write enough so that when you do have the opportunity to show something to someone, you’re not just one of those “writers” who has ideas but no scripts. Listen to criticism. Get better. Make progress. Because if I can, so can you.