I thought I would reprise something I did this time last year at GITS with the hope it would benefit as many of you as possible in taking concrete steps forward next year with your writing aspirations. It’s a very simple thing, really — setting goals — but for many, if not most people, it is an invaluable part of their creative process. You can go here to read some background on why setting goals is important and how to be S.M.A.R.T. about it.
You may be someone who likes to set goals. Or someone who hates it. Maybe you’ve never really tried to formalize the process.
Whatever your inclinations or prior experience has been, I encourage you to try it for 2014. Three big reasons why:
#1: With all its distractions, life has a way of dissipating our positive energy. We may have some general sense of what we’d like to accomplish, but the mere fact we live with the gigantic time-suck that is the Internet, that alone has a way of squandering countless hours of time when we could be writing. One of the best ways I know to deal with this natural tendency toward dissolution of focus is to take a definitive stand: Declare your intentions, and stay fixed on those goals every day.
#2: If you remember Script Girl, her tagline offered one of the most fundamental truths about the screenwriting business there is: “You can’t sell it, if you don’t write it.” You have to finish that script. In fact, to maximize your chances at success, let me amend that last statement: You have to finish those scripts. As in plural. The more scripts you write, the more you understand the craft, the better you get as a writer, and the more you prepare yourself for a possible career as a screenwriter. Plus you have more content to show to agents and managers. And each of those scripts represents a story you can sell potentially. But if you don’t write them… cue Script Girl.
#3: There’s an anecdote I believe in William Goldman’s memoir “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” still perhaps the best book about screenwriting even twenty plus years after its publication. As I recall the story, Goldman was friends with a top NBA basketball player, a man renowned for the amount of time he spent practicing. Even after he had become a successful professional athlete, he was the kind of guy who would be shooting jump shots in a lonely gym after midnight. Goldman asked him, “Why do you practice so much.” The player’s answer: “Because when I’m not practicing, someone else is.” The screenwriting version: If you’re not writing, someone else is. Screenwriting is an incredibly competitive field. To give yourself an edge over the competition, you simply have to spend time — a lot of it! — writing.
Three reasons for you to be serious about setting writing goals for 2013. I’m sure you could provide even more.
With that as a frame, here is what I’m thinking about this Writing Goals series: I will share my own year-end process with you. Not only that, at some point I will make a public declaration what my writing goals are for 2014. I’m hoping at least some of you will have the courage to do likewise.
Again just to be clear, all I’m trying to do is to motivate you to be productive next year, the same spirit as the Go On Your Own Quest initiative.
Thus each day this week (Monday-Friday) and as well as next week, I will be posting something about setting goals as well as tips and inspirational observations to achieve them, sharing my own process, and inviting any of you to join in.
Today: Looking Backward
An important first step in setting writing goals is to look back at what you accomplished in the last twelve months. If you’ve achieved a lot, great. By reviewing your accomplishments, you can use that as a springboard to propel you into the New Year. You can also assess what you’ve done to provide a logical transition from these projects this year to the ones you choose to write in the upcoming year.
On the other hand, if you look back at this year and realize you did not get nearly enough done on the writing front, that should serve as motivation as well. You don’t want to let another year slip by without making significant progress, correct? All the more reason to try establishing some simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals for 2014.
Looking back at my year:
* I wrote and uploaded over 2,000 posts on GITS including new series such as 30 Things About Screenwriting, If You Are a Beginning Screenwriter…, Studying Aristotle’s “Poetics”, and Writing and the Creative Life.
* I did a special 20-part Business of Screenwriting series called Everything You Wanted to Know About Specs.
* I conducted dozens of interviews with screenwriters which I serialized on the blog including all of the 2012 Nicholl Fellowship winners, numerous writers whose scripts have made the Black List, plus several writer-directors of indie movies, my continuing effort to Declare Your Independents.
* I ran The Quest Initiative for the second year in a row selecting 6 writers to work with me for free over a period of 24 weeks, immersing themselves in screenwriting theory and practice, then pounding out the first draft of an original script. In addition, I continued to work with several of the Questers from 2012 on their script projects, moving them toward the marketplace.
* At Screenwriting Master Class, I worked with hundreds of writers in everything from 1-week Core and Craft courses, Prep, Pages I: The First Draft, and Pages II: Rewriting Your Script workshops, and private one-on-one programs including The Quest.
* At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, I continued to teach screenwriting through the Writing for Screen and Stage program with several of my students successfully launching careers in Hollywood.
* Then there were the countless emails from writers I responded to either directly or sometimes in the form Reader Question blog posts, part of my ongoing attempt to provide whatever insight and advice I can about the screenwriting craft and business, always telling the truth about how damn hard it is to break in as a screenwriter, pushing writers to find their own creative core by watching movies, reading scripts and writing pages, while providing some inspiration based on the fact that if I, a complete Hollywood outsider could make it, anyone can as long as they love movies, have a passion for writing, and are willing to work their assess off.
* On my own writing front, I’m just about done rewriting a $1M indie drama. Plus I’m breaking a mainstream commercial high concept comedy which I’ll be writing next year.
How about you? Why not take the time to look back at your year in writing? I invite you to head to Comments and share with us what you accomplished in 2013. How many scripts did you write? How many story concepts did you generate? How many short stories or poems did you write? Maybe you signed with an agent or manager. Maybe you sold a script. Maybe you started your very first script. Anything you accomplished is worth celebrating, so I encourage you to share that with us so we can celebrate together.
The next step in this process of setting writing goals for 2014: Assessing where you are as a writer. Sit down with yourself and take a critical, honest look at where you are, what you’ve done, and where you want to be. Zero in on finding those areas about which you feel really passionate. That’s where we’ll start when we pick up the process tomorrow.
Bottom line: Set some specific, achievable goals for 2013.
Tomorrow: Part 2 — Assessing Where You Are.