Writing Goals: 2014 [Part 2] — Assessing Where You Are

December 17th, 2013 by

This series of daily posts, starting yesterday and going through next Friday (M-F), is an experiment. This is not about resolutions which we make on December 31 and break by January 30… or sooner. This is not about wish lists and ephemeral fantasies. This is about each of us — you and me — committing ourselves to ply the craft of writing day after day, to tell stories only we can tell, and to end up with a tangible product in our hand — a completed manuscript. Then start on another story…

Writing is hard. It just is. It’s a lonely occupation, far too often we get lost along the way, we have to fight off constant Inner Voices of Negativity, and the competition is stupid insane. In the face of that I guess what I’m hoping for in this effort is to enlist the entirety of the burgeoning GITS community to create a sum greater than the parts, a spirit of I Can Do That which grows and grows, and pours out into each of our little creative cups, feeding our souls and fueling our persistence.

Hence 10 posts. First and foremost, I believe the best way to identify simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely writing goals is to do a thorough job of self-examination, which is what we are doing this week, buttressed by some good, old-fashioned inspiration, which is what is on the docket for next week. But there’s also this: Each day I’m here bellowing at you is an opportunity. You may not be with us on Day 1. You may not catch up to us on Day 5. Perhaps it may take you until Day 10. But make no mistake: This is a Herald’s Call. The only way you are going to become a writer is by being a writer. And the best way to be a writer is to make goals… and meet the hell out of them.

If you missed the Day 1 post, you can catch that here.

Today: Assessing Where You Are

We started yesterday by looking back on what we accomplished in 2013. That part of the process is practical, aggregating our significant events and tangible achievements in the previous twelve months. Today we assess where we are as writers. This aspect of the process is more emotional, even spiritual.

Get curious about your Creative Self. Perhaps ask one or more of these questions:

* Is this where I want to be as a writer?

* Am I writing what I want to be writing?

* What do I want to write?

* What do I need to write?

* Is there a particular story I have surfaced about which I am particularly passionate?

* Has something important happened in my life this year which has shifted my writing perspective?

* Am I in touch with my Creative Self?

* What can I do to be a better writer?

As I noted previously, I am sharing my own part of this process with you and Friday I will make my own public proclamation of writing goals for 2014.

This year has been a challenge. As I noted here with the launch of Screenwriting Master Class and writing over 500 pages of lectures, I found myself immersed in writing about writing. Since that time, I have added more courses which meant more lectures. Plus, of course, this blog. Both ventures have been successful. But the question for me in 2013 was how to balance writing about writing, and writing fiction.

So I took up two projects, one a rewrite of an original screenplay, the other prepping another screenplay.

This will continue to be my challenge in 2014, especially as I shift focus somewhat on the teaching side toward more on-site Quest Workshops and on the writing about writing side with a screenwriting journal as well as at least one eBook.

More on that as we progress through this series.

How about you? Where are you as a writer? How would you assess where your Creative Self is just now? If it’s unclear, a piece of advice: Go into a room, shut the door, turn off all electronic conveyances, and ask yourself some of those questions noted above. What is your Creative Self calling you to do as a writer?

I encourage you to share your thoughts and impressions in Comments. And I put out a special invitation to those of you who are just starting on your writing adventure. We had a lot of feedback to yesterday’s post from writers who have been doing this for awhile, noting some significant events and opportunities in their lives this year. That was great to see. However we all start somewhere. Even if you have just recently discovered screenwriting or are contemplating for the first time giving expression to your creative impulses, stake that claim here today. As a bonus, I’m giving out batches of creative juju to all responders in Comments today!

Tomorrow we switch perspectives, instead of looking back at the past, then here today at the present, we extend our view toward the future… not 2014, but beyond… by asking this simple question: Where do you want to be as a writer?

See you in Comments!

15 thoughts on “Writing Goals: 2014 [Part 2] — Assessing Where You Are

  1. thejakk2 says:

    I’m putting my value as a writer to the test now for the first time. I just moved to LA and I sent out 270 queries Seth Lochhead style. Two producers asked to read my script and if they respond I’ll find out just where I stand in the market, won’t I?

    1. Scott says:

      You’ll find out where you stand with those two producers. That is not the be all and end all. All it takes is ONE SET OF EYEBALLS to change your life. It just takes the RIGHT set of eyeballs.

      thejakk2, my hope is you find that RIGHT set of eyeballs!

      1. thejakk2 says:

        Thanks, Scott. I’ve been a fan of the blog for over a year. Your Business of Screenwriting posts were enlightening.

  2. I have always enjoyed writing. I’ve written numerous church plays and skits. But I’ve always wanted to write a full length screenplay. I’ve tried several times but have always quit a few pages in. I never tried much prep work. Until the Quest. It provided the structure I’ve needed. I now sit a few pages away from finishing my first first draft. And I’ve somehow managed to write almost 150 pages! That really surprises me. I look forward to rewriting and whittling it down. This blog has been invaluable!

    1. Scott says:

      Tyler, your comment couldn’t make me much happier. I have dealt with over 1000 writers through my teaching and most of the ones who have struggled to finish drafts have been because they didn’t do enough in prep.

      As you’ve discovered, it’s CRITICAL!

      Congratulations on this achievement. Believe me, getting through that first draft the first time is a HUGE thing.

      Be sure to celebrate!

  3. Debbie Moon says:

    Oh man, difficult questions. I hate difficult questions… :)

    What I do know is, I want to be writing more features than I am at the moment. So that’s a start…

    1. Scott says:

      Debbie, there’s always this: 1 page per day. That equals 2 feature length screenplays per year.

  4. JoniB22 says:

    where am i…. not nearly as “farther along” in my journey at the end of 2013 as I would have liked.

    On the positive side:
    – finished some decent revisions of one script, made a few great new industry contacts in the process
    – nearly done with second script for this year
    – nearly filled a brainstorming/idea notebook and confident there are at least a few decent ideas to run with for future specs in there…
    – reading a lot of scripts.

    Now, my critical side:
    – still struggling with focus & discipline
    – still worried too much about that scale of “mediocrity — brilliance” when my aim should just be to write the best script i can and not assign such self-scrutiny to it. self-scrutiny bogs down the writing process!!
    – all told, I’ve written a lot of scripts, but I still struggle with calling my a “screenwriter” because of the stigma of still being “unrepresented” and “unsold”.

    Dumb. Time to get over all my shit and DO THE WORK!!!!! Feels like the work I’m doing is GOOD, and solid and has potential — just gotta do a lot more of it to build both confidence and momentum as I strive toward a body of work worthy of representation/sale.

    1. cgusmann says:

      Joni, you and I are very similar in our goals and feelings! I’m also struggling with focus and discipline, but I’ve found that if I just start writing (or even rereading something I’ve written before) I usually fall into the rabbit hole and start creating without even realizing I’m doing it.

      You are absolutely right about not trying to write to be great. Write the best you can because that’s all you can be in control of. The rest is just noise. At least, that’s how I get through the uncertainty day-to-day.

      My experience in contests this year and being able to read the majority of BL2012 screenplays taught me that writing is extremely subjective and, as Scott mentions in response to a previous comment, all it takes is one person to like your script.

      Good luck in 2014 everyone.

      1. Scott says:

        Joni and cgusmann, these struggles — focus, discipline, dealing with the VON (Voices Of Negativity) — confront every writer, I suspect. As I like to remind folks, Stephen King says the most frightening moment he experiences time and again is just BEFORE he starts to write a story. And this is STEPHEN KING we are talking about! I myself have written upward to 40 scripted projects and I confront the same issues.

        This is where my two favorite mantras come in handy:

        Trust the process.

        The only way out is through.

        In terms of focus, I concur with cgusmann: Just start writing. That is often the single biggest challenge. Once one DOES start writing something, at least in my experience, it becomes easier.

        A special 2014 brand of creative juju for everyone who responded to this post: WHOOOOSH!!!

  5. Personally, the biggest thing I discovered in 2013 was a growing ability to NOT beat myself up over writing. How long between I work on scenes, outline a new story, how long it takes to finish a first draft, etc.,. As Scott said, it is very lonely and it is very difficult, and stewing in your own head, negatively, can create quite the slippery slope. This year, I was able to take more of a step back and go, “you know, okay, I’m not necessarily happy with only having written 3 specs. in the last 6 years; but I accomplished this while getting a college degree, starting a career job, and then completing a Master’s while working full-time. But it’s okay.”

    I think this can be applied to others who maybe a result of family obligations, or work, or school, or simply life, who constantly beat themselves up (like I do) over perceived progress/or lack of. Take a step back, ensure the other aspects of your life are nothing but positive, to better wrangle and handle the ups and downs of writing. I think this was a huge step for overcoming personal trepidations, the daunting struggle of breaking in, and especially when reading interviews with people who talk about writing 2500 words or 10 pages or whatever, every single day, haha.

  6. DaniM says:

    I am a newbie who just started pursuing screenwriting this year! My background is in finance which is currently my daytime career. I’ve always enjoyed writing and previously focused on fiction. Where I am right now is working to become a better writer and more adequately understand the art of film. I regularly participate in a local screenwriters group, write and get feedback, and look for opportunities to be involved in local film festivals or productions. Very hard with a primary, unrelated career but I LOVE every minute of it. You’ll start seeing me around here :)

  7. * Is this where I want to be as a writer?

    Not entirely, but I’m getting there. I am where I want to be in being available to help others, but I just don’t get words to pages enough.

    * Am I writing what I want to be writing?

    The projects in my mind and close to my page are the ones I’m happy to be working on.

    * What do I want to write?

    I want to write thoughtful, exciting stories that will sell.

    * What do I need to write?

    Anything at all at this point. Get words onto the page.

    * Is there a particular story I have surfaced about which I am particularly passionate?

    I have several stories like that.

    * Has something important happened in my life this year which has shifted my writing perspective?

    I feel more confidence in myself as a writer.

    * Am I in touch with my Creative Self?

    Yes. I don’t like forcing my Creative Self to work, but when it’s working, I like what it produces.

    * What can I do to be a better writer?

    Put words on paper until I get to Fade To Black, and then rewrite after feedback. Once that starts happening on a regular basis, then we’ll see about getting better than that.

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