If you’re embarking on a new project in 2014, the auspicious Year of the Wooden Horse, good luck to you! If you believe in making your own luck then put everything, your blood, sweat, tears, talent and time into it. Especially time, maybe the hardest thing to find unless you are retired or independently wealthy, which excludes me and most of the writers I know. If you happen to be resurrecting a long-term project you’ve had on the boil for a year or three, one you dream of finishing but somehow it is – let’s be honest, it’s dragging on – then make the commitment to throw yourself into finishing it this year one way or another… or in the words of Spike Lee as he was planning to make the movie Malcolm X: “by any means necessary”. Making the commitment to finish any big writing project takes courage and optimism, a cynic might say “bloody-minded stupidity”, but more than anything it takes persistence and resilience. It helps to start with a good idea, some talent and energy… but persistence is nine tenths of the law when it comes to scriptwriting, that and resilience.
Resilience – it’s about hanging in there when that pile of blank pages starts to make you feel queasy, going back to sit at the computer when lesser spirits would walk away, and remembering what drew you to the story in the first place after you start getting rejections. About doing yet another pass over the script when you swore you didn’t have another draft in you. And reminding yourself that ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ took a hundred drafts to win that award, what was it? Oh yeah, an Oscar. Oh my God, you say, do I really want to do a hundred drafts of this thing…? Probably not. Maybe it doesn’t need more than four or five or six. But if it does, resilience is about hanging in there for the long haul, and not going to water after the first bad feedback or rejections.
If you have to change your working habits or sleeping habits to fit your writing in, then do it. Change your schedule, get up earlier or stay up later, whatever works for you, and do your best to stick to it. If you have to struggle to convince your partner, parents, children, friends that my writing time is mine and it’s important too!… then do it. As Peter Weir once said, make the commitment and providence will kick in. Once that’s done you only have to persuade yourself to hang in for the long haul. And say, like I did when my New Years Eve hangover wore off, “This year I will finish that script… or that book…” Then it’s all about resilience.
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” Neil Gaiman
“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all that I can permit myself to contemplate.” John Steinbeck
“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits for a writer is persistence.” Octavia Butler
On ya Octavia, you can bet she’s resilient too.