I wrote part of a screenplay once. 51 pages across two night. I came home from a birthday party (not mine), sat down at the computer and got it out of my system. Wrote a little more the next day and then never touched it again. For years I thought it was lost as I was unable to remember any of the possible names (it was Untitled) and couldn’t remember any terms to search for within the document. This weekend I found it.
It’s more of a relic of who I was and what I was interested in writing at the time than it is something I’ll ever get back to. Some of the themes are things I still play with in my current work, so it’s not completely abandoned. But what’s crazy about it is that it’s the longest screenplay I’ve ever written, even in its incomplete form.
If you didn’t know (and I do believe I’ve mentioned here), I’ve never finished a screenplay. Outside of the last 6 months, I didn’t spend much time writing over the last five years. I had work, school, and other things to occupy my time. Writing was always something I’d “get to.” And yet the longest thing I’d written for one particular medium happened on a lark, with no planning or foresight.
It’s an anomaly more than anything. You really do have to set goals or things get put off. “Tomorrow.” “Soon.” “Not right now.” Sometimes it’s healthy to delay things. Other times it gets in the way of ever getting anything done. My goal is to be a working writer who only has to write to pay his bills. I’m not there yet, and part of the reason is because of my track record, part is skill, and the other is that I don’t have enough completed work to offer up as samples.
I’ve been working on LYP since the final day of 2008, but I’ve been scared. Scared I couldn’t finish it. Scared it wouldn’t be good. I’ve pushed back my personal deadlines for a first draft numerous times. I had them before I got laid off, and that gave me more free time than I was anticipating. But I missed the first date, and hadn’t written a page. Eventually I got the story completely broken down. And for weeks (or perhaps months) I didn’t write a thing.
On June 3rd I wrote the first three pages of my screenplay, hoping that I’d tear through it in June and get a draft done by the end of 2009’s first half. But I didn’t touch it again. Not until this past weekend.
On Friday I went for a walk, listening to Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles for the second time in as many weeks. My biggest takeaway from the program is the idea of setting goals. They don’t have to be realistic. In fact, they should be grandiose and outside of your reality. A goal that’s as simple as, “to pay my bills,” will probably get met. “Make $100,000 this year,” is a little loftier, but no less achievable if it’s the goal you’re striving toward. There’s a line in the book that illustrates this point:
“If you give your mind a $10,000 problem, it will come up with a $10,000 solution. If you give your mind a $1 million problem, it will come up with a $1 million dollar solution.”
Setting goals and visualizing them as completed actually does work. Case in point, I resolved to get my screenplay done. Not only to get it done, but to get it done by San Diego Comic-Con so it was one less thing I had to worry about at the show. Hell, that’s a good three weeks or so out. And Bryan Hill is planning to have two screenplays done in that time. Surely I can manage to complete one.
The first thing I did was give myself permission to make it bad. I’m striving for good, but even the worst screenplay ever written is finished. And it’s not going to come out of the oven perfect. I’ll get some notes, do another draft, and see where it lands. Rinse and repeat until it’s to a point where I’m happy with it. By giving myself that permission, by freeing myself from the monster that is perfection, I finally felt like I could work on it.
On Saturday I wrote 18 pages. On Sunday, in limited time before heading to a barbecue and a concert, 3.5. In 48 hours, with plenty of time for relaxation and socializing, I managed to write more than 7x what I had done in the previous 6 months.
Set a goal. Believe. Achieve.
If I sound like a cheesy self-help salesman, it’s because I am. When I discovered self-help/self-improvement two years ago, I thought it was lame. I was a guy who didn’t need help. I was a man, dammit. We don’t ask for directions and we don’t need help. But I gave it a chance and let it transform my life. It helped me get over a rough patch personally, and there hasn’t been a single thing in my professional life I’ve been unable to deal with. And while I had dealt with everything that had happened in my life before taking initiative, now I do it in stride. Knock it, use it, whatever. Everyone finds their own path. If it helps you achieve your goals, at the end of the day that’s all that matters.
The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
The Science of Self-Confidence by Brian Tracy
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill