Why Most People Fail at Screenwriting

by Jason Hellerman on September 16, 2014

In Hollywood if you throw a brick you're going to hit a "writer." It seems that everyone and their gardener has something to pitch. Every coffee shop is teeming with people on their laptops, hoping the next key they hit will be their ticket to success. Guess what, it won't be. That'll never happen because most people will fail at becoming a screenwriter.

As John Truby states in the above video, to be a screenwriter is to be willing to devote the entirety of your life to mastering the craft. It's not about putting in your 10,000 hours, though that certainly helps. It's dedicating day in and out to becoming masterful at holding attention, capturing your audience's imagination, and being marketable. It's an obsession, probably unhealthy, and something few can survive.

In a recent Scriptnotes podcast, John August and Craig Mazin did the math and found out it is more likely to be hit by lightning than it is to sell a spec screenplay. Drink that in for a moment. Ben Franklin and his kite had a better chance than you and your rom-com.

The odds are thin, so why do we keep coming back?

Because we have the chance to be a freaking SCREENWRITER!!!

It's the magic, the feeling when your story seems electric. It's the excitement and encouragement when you place in a contest or get that first big meeting. Writing should  become a drug, something you have to take every day to let your creativity take flight. Sure, like any other drug it can bring you to the brink...but the days where it's good, you'll never feel anything better; you're chasing the high daily, no matter the cost.

Keep at it, get out in the rain with those proverbial umbrellas and shout at the heavens. You never know, lightning may strike when you least expect it.

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