Writing Goals: 2014 [Part 3] — Where Do You Want To Go As A Writer?

December 18th, 2013 by

In Part 1, we looked back at the Past, what we had accomplished as writers in 2012.

In Part 2, we considered the Present, assessing where we are now.

Today we direct our self-reflection toward the Future. Not 2014, but beyond. Five years from now. Ten years. Twenty. We consider the question: Where do you want to go as a writer?

Of course, we can’t know the answer. Indeed we can’t even assume we’ll make any money in the creative arts. As I wrote in this TBOS column is: “Movies don’t owe anybody a living.” Swap out any kind of writing for ‘movies,’ it’s the same thing.

But while we must keep our feet firmly planted on the ground, understanding the odds against financial success, there is no good reason why we can’t put our head in the clouds, indeed poke above them to catch a glimpse of our possible bright future. In fact, it’s important to envision what a successful career in the entertainment field would look like because when you break into the business, one of the earliest conversations you will have with your agents and/or manager is around this question: What do you want to do?

During this part of your reflection process, if your mind wanders off into images of a home in the Hollywood Hills, a new sports car, walking the red carpet at a movie premiere, Spielberg on the phone to ask you to salvage a troubled script, your Academy Award acceptance speech, I have no problem with that. We all deserve and need fantasies such as those to kick-start our motivation from time to time.

But the focus here is specific: You and your writing. Where do you want to be with it in a decade or longer? What would be the most fulfilling use of your creativity as a writer?

Again if you haven’t joined in with our collective ruminations in this series of posts yet, now is a perfect opportunity. First off, there’s zero negativity involved in this mental exercise today, rather it’s all about a positive sense of your future (i.e., fun stuff). Second whether you subscribe to the theory of creative visualization or not, having a specific image of yourself as a writer in the future at least provides you with a point of focus for your efforts in the present.

Today: Where Do You Want To Go As A Writer

Here are some questions you may ask yourself:

* Do you want just to write movies?

* Do you want just to write TV?

* Do you want to write both?

* Do you want to write and direct?

* Do you want to write and produce?

* Do you want to bounce between writing big commercial movies and character-driven indie films?

* Do you want to write screenplays and novels?

* Do you want to carve out a niche writing specific types of movies or write across multiple genres?

I’m sure you have other questions to add to the list. Whatever you ask yourself, the important thing is to project into the future and imagine where you want your writing to take you.

As part of this series, I promised to share my own process. In reflecting on 2013 and the years leading up to it, I realized something: I have never fit in. I have always had to carve out some peculiar and personally meaningful path, and call it my own.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up a military brat. Moving around as much as we did, I came to see myself as an outsider. That’s one reason I became something of an expert in donning my social mask, using my sense of humor and the ability to listen to people talk about themselves to make quick friends. Yet no matter where we were stationed, I felt like I only had one foot on the ground, always knowing we would be getting transferred in a year or two.

When I went to UVA and Yale, I was intent on becoming an academic, doing research and teaching at the university level. Yet in college and graduate school, I played music on the side, both solo and with various bands. It was the siren call of music that led me to take a year off after getting my masters degree. It would be decades before I wound my way back to anything resembling an academic environment, but even there I don’t quite fit in as I not only teach screenwriting theory, but also a heavy dose of the practical experience of living and working in Hollywood. No elbow-patch, pipe-smoking professor here. Rather more like your crazy hippie uncle. I could give a hoot about grades. I just want my students to learn something about the nature and power of Story.

When I played music professionally, people would tell me how funny I was on stage, my between song banter with the audience. So off I went, a two-year stint doing comedy for a living. But that act defied description, part stand-up, part comedy songs, part characters, interactive routines with taped bits. Again going my own way.

Then I discovered screenwriting and for once I felt like – creatively at least – this was it. Yet although over time, I met hundreds of writers, agents, producers, executives, actors, directors and the like when I lived in L.A., I never really felt like I fit in there either. Loved the city and my friends, but I was not a party guy, nor did I enjoy all the bull shit and hype that goes along with trafficking in the entertainment business. The day-to-day practice of writing? I felt like an insider doing that. Schmoozing? Not so much.

Fate intervened and I took a gig for eight years with a television production company, moving my family 3,000 miles east to Chapel Hill. But I found myself missing movies so much, I started Go Into The Story. Plus I had gotten into teaching screenwriting online.

And my writing? I had grown weary of churning out mainstream comedies, so I embarked on drafting a series of small indie dramas and drama comedies, none produced, although one was literally a few weeks away from commencement of production when the funding unexpectedly fell through.

Now here I am. And as I look at where I stand today, it is a truly bizarre situation. I live in an unbelievably wonderful place, so great for myself and my family (Chapel Hill is an absolute delight), and yet despite being some 3000 miles away from the epicenter of the entertainment industry, I have never been as dialed in and connected to Hollywood as I am now. How did this happen? I survey what it is I do and scratch my head…

I am not a screenwriting guru, I resist that title furiously. A guru is presumed to have some deep special insight or wisdom, suggesting there is a secret to things. There are no secrets to screenwriting. No golden formulas. Each writer has to figure out their own way. But teacher? I am quite comfortable with that designation. Sometimes it is really helpful to have a teacher who knows their stuff. And while I do not believe there is one way to approach the craft, I am passionate about what I teach: character based screenwriting, a combination of Aristotle, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, a lifetime of watching and studying movies, and decades of working in the industry. The approach I teach is a whole other way of looking at the craft, part practice, part academic, unique unto itself.

I am a writer, but after I finish this rewrite of an indie drama script, I feel myself being pulled toward a strong high concept comedy spec script.

And I am a blogger. What can I say about Go Into The Story? At one level, it makes absolutely zero sense for me to be doing this. I have never made one dime off this blog. Not a single cent. Yet I’ve spent literally thousands of hours hosting this site. 2,043 consecutive days I’ve posted here to be exact.

On the other hand, there’s a part of me that knows this is something I must do. This blog responds to one of the deepest feelings I have: My abiding passion for movies. Moreover I love screenwriting and I am zealous in my desire to promote screenwriters, especially in an industry where our work is so undervalued and seldom recognized.

So here I am at the end of 2013. And I’m more or less in the same existential spot I’ve been throughout my adult life: Not fitting in.

Or rather, maybe what I have done and am doing is creating my own place. No one else may be able to make heads or tails out of it… but somehow it make sense to me.

Thus as I consider 2014, I am trying to embrace an unusual idea, at least for me: Not looking to fit in, but rather accept the fact this is who I am, this is what I do. What it is, I’m not exactly sure. Teacher. Writer. Blogger. Whatever.

Accept the fact that I don’t fit in, I never will fit in.

I just know this: When I am talking about Story… as a teacher… a writer… a blogger… or simply a movie fan…

I feel at home.

How about you? Do you have a clear sense of what you want to be doing in five or ten years? Or is your vision of the future an amorphous one? Stop by Comments, won’t you, and share your thoughts.

Tomorrow we focus on practical matters. Remember what we’re trying to do here is be S.M.A.R.T. about our choices when it comes to Writing Goals: 2014.

S = Smart

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Realistic

T = Timely

After spending time with our head in the clouds, tomorrow we focus on keeping our feet on the ground.

See you in Comments!

11 thoughts on “Writing Goals: 2014 [Part 3] — Where Do You Want To Go As A Writer?

  1. […] Of course, we can’t know the answer. Indeed we can’t even assume we’ll make any money in the creative arts. As I wrote in this TBOS column is: “Movies don’t owe anybody a living.” Swap out any …read more […]

  2. Debbie Moon says:

    Okay, nice easy answer for this one: I like TV and movies, I want to write both, but where I want to go next is Hollywood movies – smart blockbusters, popular but original and exciting…

  3. not as easy for me as it was for you, Debbie:) but here goes – I LOVE features, and would love to write family fare or fantasy-drama or book adaptations since I am a voracious reader. In an ideal world, even an animated film or two.

    I also have this deep ache to direct the features I write someday – though that ache is not as big as just getting my scripts written and made into films. I like the idea of commercially-driven stuff but those that go further and infuse great characters and story – on the other hand, maybe character-driven pieces too, I don’t really know.

    Bottom line: writing wise, I just want to have adventures and be a part of something great and bigger than me. I am writing things that I am really passionate about – but being less experienced in the rest of the process, don’t know where I fit in best, forgive my ramble.

  4. JoniB22 says:

    Five, ten years down the road…. Will be supporting myself and my hubby via my writing. Movies, yes. Commercial, yes. Various sized budgets, yes. No one genre, but I’ll spin many a tale about underdogs, misfits and laggards who finally get their adventure on. I will have been on many a movie set and “on location” several times over. Despite coming to the game a bit later in life than most, my reps will adore me for my youthful passion and my ability to keep bringing them scripts they’re excited to take to the market. Not sure where I’ll be living. I don’t see myself in TV, nor in the typical series “writers’ room”. Nor do I harbor any desire to direct. My one ginormous “fantasy”, though, is to one day be courted by Pixar to collaborate on writing a tale. Guess then I’ll be living in the bay area! I hope by this point I will have run the gamut as far as original specs, assigned projects, adaptations, rewrites/polishes. I’ll be in a position to be able to attend some big film festivals here and there, but jury’s still out as to whether or not any of my scripts will be considered as “indies”. I have no Big Dreams about Big Houses or Fancy Cars or Flashy Statues on a mantle! “Making It” in the film industry means something else to me — it means that ability to tell stories that get onto screens and, for a few hours at a time, allow people to lose themselves in characters they wanna root for, to laugh, to cry, to be inspired, to be moved emotionally. Making it means doing this not once, but over and over and over again. If I’m fortunate enough to amass a body of work allowing me to do THAT over the next 5-10 years, I’ll be beyond overjoyed….

  5. In five years, I will have two feature films produced and be well into my third.

    I will have one novel published and be working on my second.

    In ten years, I will be producing and writing full time.

  6. In 5 years, I want to be a better writer than I am today. In 10 years, a better writer than I am in 5. That’s it. That’s all I can personally control.

  7. I’d like to both write and produce so I can #BeTheChange. I’d like to make movies featuring more women and people of color, both as a writer and a producer. I don’t mind if those movies are indie or blockbusters.

    I’d also like to try my hand at writing for TV, but not sure if I’d like to be a staff writer with a young family since I’ve heard the hours can be long. If someone would buy a pilot I pitch and I can be an Exec. Producer and write the season finales each year, I wouldn’t complain at all.

  8. Gordon says:

    Besides Spielberg calling me to salvage his script …

    I hope that in 10 years my mind continues to wander, because it is in the subconscious that our creativity dwells. To help that, I make impressionist and black and white abstract paintings. From Dungeons and Dragons to my crime drama today, I will write.

    I am writing professionally now, not getting paid yet, but following my scheduled 15 hours a week. That will continue for at least nine more years. I am one year into a ten year plan.

    I ten years I plan on having one film made on the Indy circuit and one made in the studio system. Last month I made my first short (written, directed, produced, carried the camera, et. al.), so that is one bench mark made.

    I also plan on finishing the rewrite on my sci-fi novel, and getting it published.

    Let me say thanks, Scott, for this blog. I have used it to add to my “writing skills” document, which I use to help with brainstorming, fleshing out the concept, themes, characterization, etc.

    Finally let me say thanks for the mini-contests, like the Black list logline we just did. These are little ways to push us into uncharted territory.

    May the id be with you!

  9. clavendish says:

    1. What happened to the actor writer? I see myself producing, acting and writing everything under the damn sun that I can get my hands on or create.

    2. That real shit that matters today. Politically driven memoir about an Indian call center employee who goes on to run the biggest multinational the world has ever seen. Your welcome for the story idea. Pay me when it goes in theaters.

  10. DaniM says:

    Hi I am a newbie who introduced myself in part 2. Right now, I see myself as a writer who focuses on character driven short films. That’s really my interest at the moment. Perhaps that will change as I master the basics, but those are the stories I feel most drawn to.

  11. I want to write screenplays and novels. I would be happy doing TV work on a regular basis, but it is not something I see happening (though I do have a pitch for HBO – doesn’t everyone?). I would like to do multiple genres of work. I would prefer writing smaller movies, not the big summer tentpoles. I would like to look back on five or six movies from my screenplays, one or two being rather close to what I’ve written.

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