What steps can screenwriters take to become more resilient to the ongoing and difficult challenges and constant rejection they face?
The screenwriting journey is fraught with difficulty.
It starts with learning the art and craft of screenwriting. It continues when you begin to share your work for the first time and face the intimidating — and sometimes overwhelming — feedback. It gets worse when you start to market your screenplays — hoping that someone will take you seriously and give your writing the chance you feel it deserves.
It’s wonderful to read success stories and anecdotes about how successful people overcame this or that to survive and finally see their dreams come true. But that doesn’t really give you any helpful information that you can apply to your own journey.
Behavioral science professor, clinician, and author Kristen Lee wrote an excellent piece about resilience in Psychology Today. Working from the findings of an interdisciplinary research team comprised of Jessica Shaw, Kate McLean, Bruce Taylor, Kevin Swartout, and Katie Querna — as well as her own writings — Lee features eight ways you can increase your resilience.
Here we share these eight life-changing directives and apply them to the screenwriting journey with our own elaboration — hopefully helping to teach screenwriters how to have the resilience they need to survive and thrive in the industry.
1. Don’t Have a Myopic View of the World
Resilient screenwriters don’t adhere to any specific screenwriting doctrine or advice. They understand that their situation is their own — and that hundreds of successful screenwriters and filmmakers have found success in hundreds of different ways.
There’s no secret formula. There’s no single, specific way to write a screenplay. There are no rules that you have to follow, beyond the general guidelines and expectations of the film and television industry.
Read ScreenCraft’s The Differences Between Screenwriting Rules, Guidelines, and Expectations!
Be ready, willing, and able to adapt to your situation by learning or unlearning standard Hollywood conditioning, procedures, doctrine, advice, teachings, and habits.
2. Align Your Values with Your Behavior
Resilient screenwriters know their strengths, worth, and value set.
Do not fall under any pressure to be something or someone that you are not. Do not socially compare yourself to others or strive for definitions of success that do not allow you to be creative. Be you. Don’t succumb to the perceived cutthroat business practices you’ve read about or have seen first or second hand. Success is great, but not at the cost of your values.
You increase your resilience by accepting who you are, who you want to be, and what you are and are not willing to do to see this screenwriting dream come true.
3. Be Agile
Resilient screenwriters can adapt to any situation, as well as any needs and wants that agents, managers, development executives, producers, and directors may have.
When things don’t go as planned, you need to be ready, willing, and able to readjust your expectations and work to find a new approach. You need to be able to pivot and avoid overly rigid thoughts and behaviors. This is especially important when you’ve gotten to the level of collaborating with others on assignments or working with agents and managers that are trying to help you get the script where it needs to be for them to get Hollywood insiders to take notice.
If you can’t collaborate well, you won’t last long on your screenwriting journey.
4. Build a Strong Support Network
Resilient screenwriters need to invest themselves in a strong support network. The cliche image of a lone screenwriter in front of a bright screen dealing with their struggles all alone is one that you shouldn’t be aiming for in life.
To grow, heal, learn, unlearn, and fight insecurities and rejection, you need to be part of a community that can support you. That community may only consist of a handful of people — or it could be many through various writing groups, peer groups, family, and friends. Having a community like that — a strong support network — helps you to avoid isolation and loneliness. Both of which are significant mental and physical health risks in today’s world.
Find a mentor.
Read ScreenCraft’s 7 Traits of a Good Screenwriting Mentor!
Find writing peers.
Jump on social media and Tweet about your screenwriting. Look for some great screenwriting Twitter feeds to follow. Share your work with trusted family and friends. It’s always nice to have people that can read your work, talk shop with, and vent to.
5. Be a Tireless Discoverer
Resilient screenwriters never stop seeking knowledge. They never refuse to grow as a writer. You need to always be ready to learn something new. Complacency can be a screenwriter’s worst enemy. Challenge yourself by taking on a different genre. Push the limits of your writing by expanding the scope of your screenplays or forcing yourself to work with constraints. For resilient screenwriters, this generates curiosity and excitement — not fear.
6. Take Care of Yourself Outside of Writing
Resilient screenwriters remember to nurture their mind, body, and spirit.
You need to take care of yourself and understand that sustainability is a vital component of success. You accomplish this by taking the necessary breaks throughout your day, week, month, and year that you need to take to ensure that your mind, body, and spirit are well. The writing will always be there. You can’t let it overcome you. And, besides, doing so is counter-productive. You don’t want to force your creative mind to shut down because of the paralysis of analysis.
7. Reach Out for Help
Resilient screenwriters understand that reaching out for help is a strength, not a weakness. Every successful screenwriter out there does it. It’s a collaborative medium, and sometimes — oftentimes — the greatest writers need an outside perspective.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to that support network.
8. Work to Make a Better Social Context
Resilient screenwriters know how to invest themselves as conscientious citizens within the screenwriting and filmmaking community of up-and-comers, fostering needed social change. Don’t just seek to be kind and compassionate to those you know, those you like, and those you need. Spread kindness and compassion to all. And as you move up the screenwriting totem pole with experience and success, remember that you can help others become more resilient to the hardships, struggles, and rejection you faced in your screenwriting journey.
Resilience is perhaps the most essential trait for screenwriters. This career and dream venture can be a long and arduous journey, but you can build your resilience in many different ways.
Don’t have a myopic view of the world. Align your values with your behavior. Be agile. Build a strong support network. Be a tireless discoverer. Take care of yourself outside of your writing. Reach out for help without shame or hesitation. Work to make a better social context for all screenwriters. Not only will these habits help you stay focused and proactive as a screenwriter, they will also improve your overall quality of life.
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures. He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies