Many newcomers want to become a screenwriter for all of the wrong reasons — and they usually give up when they learn that what they’ve read in guru books and the trade headlines does not match the true experience of pursuing such a career.
If you want to avoid becoming a part of that statistic, you have to not just be pursuing a career — you have to be pursuing a dream. Pursuing a dream is unique in this day and age and it is so much more than the search for a good paycheck.
Let’s explore ten inspiring reasons to pursue a career in screenwriting.
1. You’re an Uncommon Breed
When you pursue a dream — any dream — you are part of a very small percentage of the population. Most people pursue a job that pays the bills, raise a family, and then they’re gone. Perhaps later regretting that they didn’t chase after those dreams they had when they were young.
For others, their dreams are of becoming a teacher, doctor, soldier, fireman, police officer, engineer, scientist, construction worker, accountant, etc.
As a writer pursuing the dream of making a living out of writing, you’re an uncommon breed. It’s special. It’s unique. It’s honorable in the eyes of many — and perhaps silly to others that just don’t understand — because you’ve chosen a career where all odds are against you. Most that go to college to become a teacher, doctor, or engineer are likely going to find a job waiting for them.
With screenwriting, there are no such guarantees. In fact, the sole guarantee is that no matter what talent and effort is showcased, most will never see that dream come true. Most will find something else — maybe something better for them.
If you truly want to do this, no, if you truly need to do this and you do all that you can to see this dream come true, you’re an uncommon breed.
2. You Become a God
No, this isn’t about delusions of grandeur or god complexes. When you pursue this dream, you are the ultimate creator. In Hollywood, despite what anyone says, it all starts with you — the word. You have the freedom of creating any character and any situation that you would like. Even when you’re under assignment or trying to write a marketable screenplay to break through — thus having to deal with studio notes and general industry guidelines and expectations — you are the one bringing any given concept, character, or story to life.
There’s a feeling of power to that. And it’s not a feeling rooted in greed or vanity. It’s something that feeds your soul in ways that no one else will understand.
You become a god. Not of this world or above any other in your life, but you have the passion, power, and ability to create worlds and bring life to them.
3. You Feel the Ultimate Rush
Some people jump out of planes, climb mountains, or venture to the depths of the oceans. You sit in front of your computer, typewriter, or notepad and write.
There’s no greater rush for a storyteller than when the inspiration comes. When you crack that code of some story point you’ve been struggling with, when you discover a new character, or when you stumble upon those amazing happy accidents, you quickly realize that you’ve never felt so alive.
For teachers, maybe it’s reaching that difficult student. For doctors, maybe it’s saving that little boy’s life. For writers, it’s telling a story — and telling it well.
4. You Can Play in a World of Magic
Movies are magic. The things we can now see and experience in theaters are like no other that have come before. We can create any world, any scenario, any situation, and see it come to life on that screen. And it all starts with you.
If you walk onto any movie set, you’ll feel the magic. If you walk onto any movie studio lot, you’ll feel the magic. If all goes well and you hear those words you wrote long ago finally being uttered by actors as cameras roll, you’ll feel the magic. There was nothing more thrilling for me as a writer than hearing my dialogue from actors that I had long watched on the big and small screen. And there’s even a magic to seeing your name as it appears in the opening credits.
When audiences sit in their seats and the lights go down, there is a spark of magic as they’re transported into the worlds and the lives of the characters.
How many people get to have a hand in providing such magic for others?
5. You Can Change Lives
Movies can change lives. They can make someone laugh when they need to laugh, cry when they need to cry, cheer when they need to cheer, etc. Movies have gotten people, states, countries, and the whole world through rough times — allowing the necessary escapism, entertainment, and providing a platform to understand and comprehend what’s happened.
Movies have brought forth the necessary awareness of political and social issues, leading to changes in policy or the way we think as a society. Movies have made us accept those that we previously feared or didn’t understand by providing a human face to what may have previously felt taboo or different.
Look back and imagine what movies changed your life, even in the most minuscule of ways. Perhaps a movie gave you confidence when you had none, provided courage when you needed it most, or allowed you to identify with someone else — even if you knew it was a fictional character — that was going through the same or similar struggle that you were.
You don’t have to be a professor or teacher to change a life. You don’t have to be a policeman, fireman, or soldier to save a life. Screenwriters do it every day, every weekend, every season, and every year.
6. You Get Free Therapy
Writing is a form of expression. Therapy centers on expressing and communicating your inner struggles. They are one and the same.
The topics you tackle in your scripts — even if they are written subtly within subplots or character arcs — can be those that which reside within you and your wants, needs, frustrations, resentments, nightmares, and fears.
Writing is a release. It can cure a bad day, week, month, year, or lifetime. It can allow you to escape from a current situation that you’d like to forget or just need a break from. It can allow you to right a wrong that you missed in your life as you live vicariously through your characters.
Writing is expression, expression is therapy.
7. Your Office Is Wherever You Choose
It can have a waterfront ocean view, the sounds of nature surrounding you, the smell of coffee beans, or the feeling of the warm sun on your hands and face as you type.
Gone are the office politics, the power plays, the disappearance of your leftovers that you had every intention of finishing if not for the act of a faceless and selfish co-worker, etc. Your office is anywhere you choose on any given day.
8. Your Work Hours Are Whenever You Choose
You can write day or night. You can write for an hour or eight. You can take a week off and return refreshed. You can frantically cram to your own heart’s desire.
Sure, you may have to jungle your time with another job until you’ve broken through those Hollywood gates, but regardless, you’re writing time is yours to choose.
9. Your Wildest Fantasies Can Come to Life
If you’ve ever wanted to be something that for whatever reason you could not, that fantasy can come to life with a few strokes of your keyboard. You can explore what it’s like to be a soldier, FBI agent, spy, professional athlete, or astronaut. With some great research and a wild imagination, you can live vicariously through those types of characters.
You can go to places and do things that were never possible in your physical life. If there ever were a real fantasy island, writing would be it.
10. You’ll Never Ask Yourself, “What If …”
Regret is perhaps the most lethal disease to have eat away at you in your later years. The truth of the matter is that no, there are no guarantees of success as you pursue a career in screenwriting. In fact, as mentioned before, all odds are against you. There are too many people trying to do what you’re doing and it has gotten to the point where it’s not just about talent, great ideas, and effort. Plenty have had all three of those virtues, to no avail.
Yet someone has to make it. Every year someone sees their screenwriting dream come true. Why can’t it be you?
Every top screenwriter in Hollywood — the one percenters — struggled just like you have. There are no such things as overnight successes, despite what the guru books and trade headlines say. A “first sold script” is almost always the product of years of struggle, dead ends, and times of hopelessness. Most successful screenwriters have struggled for a decade or more before finally seeing the dream come true.
And often, those that pursue this career and this dream don’t accomplish what they hoped they would. They find more suitable careers and aspirations. They find that it wasn’t for them.
But they’ll never, ever have to ask themselves, “What if I had tried to make it? What if I had written that script? What if I had made a go at that dream?”
Yes, the obvious additions to this list of reasons would be the accomplishments that can be had IF you do go the distance, defy the odds, and make it. The eventual paychecks can be lucrative at times. The thrill and notoriety of seeing your movies in the headlines and at the Oscars can make you feel good. Mingling with the prominent figures in Hollywood can be enjoyable.
However, these above ten bullet points are the REAL reasons why you, the storyteller and movie lover, should pursue a career in screenwriting. They fill your heart and soul, not just your bank account and ego.