What I shared today with my UNC Chapel Hill students

February 12th, 2015 by

Today was the first time I would meet with my students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after the tragic shooting deaths on Tuesday in this university town.

The deceased: Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Barakat was a second-year student in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry. His wife Yusor, a North Carolina State University graduate, was planning to enter the UNC School of Dentistry in the fall. Razan was a student at N.C. State in nearby Raleigh.

I have been a visiting lecturer at UNC Chapel Hill since 2008, teaching in the Writing for Screen and Stage program within the Communication Studies Department. The class I am teaching this semester – History of American Screenwriting – has 25 students. They are a wonderful group of young women and men. Smart, enthusiastic, curious, energetic.

Today’s session: A discussion of this week’s movie Double Indemnity, our conversation guided by each of the student’s weekly research papers which we go through together in class. The learning that goes on in our Thursday meetings is remarkable, lively sessions filled with all sorts of insights, conjecture, and analysis.

Late last night, I felt compelled to say something to my students about this act of senseless violence which has shocked the university and our community of Chapel Hill. Here is what I shared:

Before we start class today, I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about the tragic events of Tuesday afternoon… the shooting deaths of three young people here in Chapel Hill.

There are no words.

In the immediacy of this violence, there are no words to create any sort of context within which we can make sense of what transpired.

So we hug our friends…
We reach out to our families…
We attend vigils for the victims…
We offer silent benedictions on their behalf.

These are right and good things to do.

But in the bigger picture, there are words.
Words which each of us…
You and I…
Can use.

As writers.
Screenwriters. TV writers. Playwrights. Novelists. Poets. Journalists.

We can use words to write…
Stories.

What can stories do?

In stories, we can create characters…
Who put a human face on others…
On The Other.
People whose skin color is different than ours.
Whose religion is different.
Whose sexual orientation is different.
Whose socioeconomic and cultural background is different.
Whose behaviors, language, clothes, and habits are different.

We can tell stories that convey the humanity we all share.
We can shrink the emotional and psychological distance between…
This person… and that person.

With stories, we can create a sense of personal identification.
So instead of looking at Them as an It… They become You.
With more stories, You becomes We.
And with even more stories, We becomes Us.

With stories, we can transform The Other…
Into a Brother… or a Sister.

We can speak the one undeniable, unalterable truth.
That we all exist on this speck of earth…
Amidst an unfathomably vast universe…
Each of our lifespans a relative nanosecond.

Amidst the awesome mystery of that existence… of life itself…
The differences between us lie merely on the surface.
The similarities go deep under the skin and are essential to who we are as people.

Where some would dehumanize others…
We can write stories that humanize them.

Telling stories is not a panacea.
Violence will never go away.
Evil will always have its place.

But if we write stories…
To expose injustice… to celebrate diversity…
To explore the unknown… to dimensionalize what is known…
To engage our fears… to inspire our hopes…
And always in some way to verbalize and visualize our common humanity…

Perhaps next time…
One human being won’t pull the trigger on another human being.
One human being instead of raising a fist will offer a handshake.
Acknowledging that this is a fellow traveler on a journey we are all taking…
A journey called Life.

Today words are hard to come by…
As we try to offer prayers of support to the victims’ families and friends…
And struggle to put together simple sentences to make sense of this tragedy.

But over time, words will come.
As storytellers, I encourage you to embrace this power we have as writers…
Use your words.

Use your words to tell stories.
Stories that make us laugh… make us cry…
Make us angry… make us scared…
Make us wonder… make us think…
But always make us realize…

The humanity we all share.

Writers, we can’t control the violent acts of others. But we can write. Words have power when shaped into stories. Let’s re-commit ourselves today to write stories worth reading… stories worth hearing… stories worth watching.

Do it for young people everywhere.

Do it for Deah, Yusor, and Razan.

Do it for humanity.

Do it for the good of your soul.

Deah, along with other UNC Dental School students, created Project: Refugee Smiles – The Syrian Dental Relief Fund. If you wish to do something beyond using your words, you can use your money to support this worthy cause in honor of Deah, his wife and sister-in-law.

UPDATE: The Syrian Dental Relief Fund has become an ad hoc memorial fund for Deah’s dream and the response over the last 24 hours has been astonishing. With an original goal of $20,000 in an end date 168 days from now, when I last checked, the crowdfunding site had raised $280,000! Here is a video Deah made sharing his vision for this relief operation:

Please help Deah’s dream come to fruition by supporting this effort. Perhaps with enough money, it can become an ongoing relief entity, providing dental care in other needy areas. In any event, it is a wonderful testament to a young man with a passion for giving whose life was cut short.

To make your contribution, go here.

Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling

January 12th, 2015 by

14 movies produced. 14 movies #1 at the box office. Worldwide B.O. gross of $8.5 billion. Average B.O. per film: $608M by far the highest average per film of any studio in Hollywood history.

It’s not just dollars and cents, it’s also quality storytelling. 26 Academy Awards, 7 Golden Globes, 3 Grammys. Indeed 7 of Pixar’s 14 films are in the IMDB Top 250 Movies of all time.

No disrespect to Disney, but I think the real Magic Kingdom lies 397.8 miles north of Anaheim in a city called Emeryville, California where you’ll find this:

Pixar_Animation Studios

Longtime GITS readers know of my obsession fascination with Pixar having blogged about them dozens of times. Due to having two sons who quite literally have grown up in what someday is likely to be called the Pixar Era, I have seen every one of the company’s movies, most of them several times.

In my estimation, the filmmakers at Pixar are master storytellers.

But how do they successfully wrangle magic time after time in their films? Are there lessons we can learn from Pixar to inspire and upgrade our own writing?

Those are two key questions I undertook in creating the online course Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling. My answer: An emphatic yes!

First off, there are the practices Pixar uses in developing, breaking, writing and rewriting a script. In our 1-week class, we go through that process step by step, then see how we can adapt that approach to our own writing.

Then there are several narrative principles evident in Pixar movies, six of them we focus in our online class: Small Story / Substantial Saga, Special Subculture, Strange Sojourners, Separation, Sentimentality, and Surprise. Going through every Pixar movie, we explore how these dynamics work in the context of each narrative and their overall applicability to storytelling.

There are 7 lectures, each of which I wrote, the content buttressed by a lengthy interview I conducted with Mary Coleman, Senior Development Executive at Pixar since the days of Toy Story 2, so we get a real inside look the outfit’s creative process.

The class also has a Logline Workshop where you can post a story idea and revise per peer feedback. And two teleconferences to accommodate peoples’ schedules where participants get a chance to dig into the course content with me as well as discuss anything related to writing, screenwriting, and movies.

Here are some nice comments from folks who’ve taken the class:

“I was lucky enough to be able to take Scott’s Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling class. It was my first class and a wonderful experience. I learned a ton and now have some important utensils that will help make all my stories better. Scott’s a great teacher and it was a pleasure learning from him!” — Valencia Stokes

“This course is awesome. I refer to these notes and lessons all the time.” — Traci Nell Peterson

“A course on Pixar movies? Apart from legitimately letting out my inner child and renting Up ‘for research purposes, I learnt about the ethos of the Pixar Brain Trust and the essential elements contained in all of their movies. Scott took us on an all-inclusive week long journey into why Pixar are so successful and how to practically apply this to your own script.” — Camilla Castree

“I recommend this course wholeheartedly. Plus you get to watch Pixar films as homework.” — TheQuietAct

“Scott Myers is a brilliant teacher and unites his knowledge and experience, insight and depth of thought in his lectures as well as he is providing help and support to his students. I highly recommend the class.” — Eva Brandstätter

A few words about the format: I’ve been teaching online since 2002, worked with over 1000 writers in that context, and honestly believe it is superior to the onsite class environment in many ways:

* You can do virtually everything on your own time: Download lectures, read forum conversations, add your own comments, upload writing exercises and assignments. In your pajamas. In bed. Drinking coffee. However you want to access online course content, you can do it.

* As opposed to listening to a teacher present lectures verbally, you get to download lectures and read them. Again at your leisure, but even more importantly, instead of feverishly trying to jot down notes from a verbal presentation, here you get everything laid out for you. I take great pride in my lectures, as they not only provide great content, they also have a narrative flow to them. Yes, they tell a little story.

* Feedback and conversations online tend to be much more thoughtful and therefore beneficial than onsite settings. Why? Because instead of off-the-cuff, random comments, participants online tend to spend more time and reflection in composing posts for online.

Finally I’m constantly amazed at how much of a community emerges in online class environments. Writers from all around the world and somehow we bind together into remarkably vibrant learning communities, time and time again.

So if you’ve never tried an online screenwriting class, come on in! The virtual water’s fine!

For more information on Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling, go here. And if you really want to treat yourself well, consider The Craft Package for a nearly 50% savings on Craft classes.

Did you know Pixar has two movies being released in 2015? Inside Out which comes out in the U.S. on June 19 and The Good Dinosaur which arrives on November 25. By the looks of it, two more four quadrant films from the studio, appealing to young and old, male and female. This makes the timing doubly good to take Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you! Or to put it another way…

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!

Video: “Best Writing Trick I Know”

January 12th, 2015 by

HT to screenwriter Mike Le (@WriterLe) for tweeting the link to this video with nifty piece of writing advice from author Victoria Schwab:

It’s funny how little things can work as motivators. A calendar and stickers? Why not! That’s not the only way to get one’s derriere on chair and actually write. I believe it was an interview I read with Neil Simon who would tell himself, “Okay, I finish this scene, I can go have a snack.” Hell, for some kinds of work, I use the Pomodoro Technique.

The point is whatever works!

As fate would have it, I ran across this article today: How to Stop Procrastinating: 4 Steps Backed by Research. Here is a summary of those steps:

* You don’t need more willpower. You need to build a solid habit that helps you get to work.

* Getting started is the tricky part. Turn that habit into a “personal starting ritual.” It can even have some fun to it as long as it signals that in a few minutes, it’s time to get cranking.

*The most powerful habits change how you see yourself. Think about what makes you feel like someone who gets things done and make that a part of your starting ritual.

*Eat chocolate with friends. Maybe not literally, but it’s a good reminder that you need both rewards and a support network to build rock solid new habits.

That “solid habit” angle is key. I’m reminded of a quote from screenwriter Frank Pierson (Cool Hand Luke, Dog Day Afternoon:

“Sit down at ten o’clock in the morning and write anything that comes into my head until twelve. One of the few things I’ve discovered about writing is to form a habit that becomes an addiction so that if you don’t put something down on paper every day, you get really mean and awful with withdrawal symptoms, and your wife and your dog and your kids are going to kick your ass until you get back to it because they can’t bear you in that state of mind.”

“Form a habit that becomes an addiction.” To get there, if you need cute little stickers… or a bowl full of Fritos… or a timer program on my computer that says, “Get your ass in gear for a writing session,” then when I finish responds, “Great job, genius”… just do it.

How about you? Do you have any fun bits of business you do to motivate yourself to write? Please share them in comments, okay?

You can subscribe to Victoria Schwab’s YouTube channel here.

Write Every Day + Dare To Suck = Productive Writing

January 6th, 2015 by

I pulled this from comments from a recent blog post on time management:

cilly247 says:
January 6, 2015 at 12:00 PM

In short, ineffectively. All these are really useful tools.

I used to think that starting off at 2pm was wasting the morning, but generally that’s when I’m ready to begin. The guilt is there, but I need to stop that. A routine (even if I am on holiday) is the only way I can write. I have to establish it early on, otherwise I flounder.

Thanks Scott!

Scott says:
January 6, 2015 at 1:04 PM

Camilla, one thing I’ve found in my many years of reading about, listening to and now interviewing writers, specifically about their writing habits… everyone is different. Some writer 8-10-12 hours per day. Some write just 1 or 2 hours per day. Some write first thing in the morning. Some in the afternoon. Some at night. There’s no right or wrong.

The trait I see pretty consistently: Write every day. That way, no matter when you start… how much you produce… you’re always making progress. Combine that with somehow dealing with our perfectionism and allowing ourselves to suck (Google Maureen Johnson + Dare To Suck for a great video on this), then that is the basis of how to be a productive writer.

Sounds like the basis of a blog post…

As I was responding to Camilla, it occurred to me I run into this particular combination of advice a lot: Write every day. Allow yourself to suck. In fact, just last night in the course of my interactions online, these two crashed up against each yet again.

First, I moderated the 4th annual Screenwriters Roundtable with Chris Borrelli, Brian Duffield, F. Scott Frazier, Chris McCoy, Justin Rhodes, and Greg Russo, and the consensus among this group of up and coming Hollywood writers is treat writing like a job and write every day. This is not only how they organize their own writing habits, it’s advice they extend to aspiring writers. If your goal is to be a professional screenwriter or TV writer, then develop and use those practices now… which includes writing every day.

Coming off that rousing discussion, I segued over to the Screenwriting Master Class site where the latest session of my Pages I: The First Draft just launched yesterday. In introducing herself, one of the writers said she looked forward to “churning out some vomity shitty pages & learning to be ok with it.” To which I responded:

Gives me the opportunity to plug perhaps my most favorite video of all time courtesy of the wonderfully talented writer Maureen Johnson: Dare to suck!

To those of us who grew up with an atrocious 5th grade teacher who crushed our souls for every undotted “i” or times we drew outside the lines, the very idea of embracing suckitude seems utterly foreign. However if you (and by you, I mean everyone) can claim the right to suck in your first draft, you will find this incredibly liberating.

No one is expecting perfection in the pages you (everyone) churns out in this workshop. Rather as they say in Hollywood, the first draft is the vomit draft. Or per your wonderful description, Kim, the “vomity shitty draft”.

If you (everyone) can embrace the sucky nature of the first draft, that can allow you to have fun, express yourself, test out things. Keep what works. Change the rest.

So here’s to a sucky first draft. But importantly, a complete sucky first draft! Then you’ve got something to work with, work on and work out toward a final non-sucky draft.

Onward!

Here is that Maureen Johnson video:

So I think we have the makings of a piece of writing meets math formula:

Write Every Day + Dare To Suck = Productive Writing

If you can get into the habit of writing every day — no matter when you write, no matter how much you write, just write — and combine that with an embrace of daring to suck — fight back against perfectionism and fear by acknowledging the fact that your first and probably subsequent drafts will inevitably have some measure of suckitude — then you have the foundation for a solid approach to productive writing.

Try putting this to practice in your own writing. If you need a push in that direction, there’s still room in my Pages: First Draft workshop. Break down the first draft process into 10 weeks. Each Monday, you start writing a new sequence. Your goal: 10-15 pages. Each Sunday, you deliver those pages. You write every day. You embrace the suck. You get feedback. Support. Inspiration. And you get from FADE IN to FADE OUT. Not only a first draft, but setting into motion work habits you can carry over into your writing life.

Whatever you do, if you have issues completing scripts or even finding the wherewithal to deposit your derriere on chair to write, consider printing out our zippy little formula: Write Every Day + Dare To Suck = Productive Writing.

Love to hear your thoughts. How do you overcome perfectionism? Fear? Are you a daily writer? How did you manage to do that? See you in comments!

My wishes for you in 2015

January 1st, 2015 by

This blog exists for many reasons and a primary one is to try to elevate the quality of the scripts that funnel into Hollywood and other filmmaking centers worldwide. We deserve better movies. And that starts with a screenplay.

In that spirit, here are some wishes I have for each of you in 2015.

May you be creative.
May you develop a relationship with your Creativity that enables it to grow.
May you channel your Creativity into an empowering writing process.

May you feed your imagination by reading great books and screenplays.
May you find inspiration by watching and analyzing movies.
May those ideas and images make your writing that much better.

May you claim your right to be a writer.
May you find the persistence to exercise that right every day.
May your daily diligence translate into plenty of FADE OUTs.

May you fall in love with words.
May you use strong verbs and vivid descriptors.
May your pages come alive in the minds of readers.

May you generate a bounty of story concepts.
May you push yourself to work on only the very best ones.
May at least one of them be the basis for a truly commercial script.

May you get to know your characters in the deepest possible ways.
May they speak to you through their words and actions.
May you have the courage to follow their lead when writing each and every scene.

May you learn to live with the voices of negativity in your mind.
May you grasp the fact that all writers deal with doubts.
May you understand the only power those doubts have is that which we give them.

May you write.
May you rewrite.
May you finish.

May you find your passion.
May you follow that passion into stories flowing from your soul.
May those stories come into being as great scripts.

There are so many things about what we do we can not control.
We can not control agents and managers.
We can not control producers.
We can not control studio executives.
We can not control directors.
We can not control business trends.
We can not control a fundamental need for every writer… plain dumb luck.

But we can control this…
Our writing.
The stories we choose to tell…
And the quality of the effort we bring to the process as we write them.

So finally this…

May you always keep your focus on the Writing.
May you develop a vibrant, organic and real relationship to Story.
And together, may your Creativity and Story translate into tales worth writing.

What will you write this year?

Thanks for making GITS a part of your life.
All the best to each of you and your creative endeavors in 2015!

Writing Goals: 2015 – 10 Part Series

December 28th, 2014 by

If you didn’t follow along with the series over the last two weeks and feel like you could use a good year-end reflection as well as taking time to set writing goals for 2015, here you go – all ten posts.

Writing Goals: Part 1 — Looking Back

Writing Goals: Part 2 — Assessing Where You Are

Writing Goals: Part 3 — Where Do You Want To Go As A Writer

Writing Goals: Part 4 — Practical Matters

Writing Goals: Part 5 — Going Public

Writing Goals: Part 6 — Schedule

Writing Goals: Part 7 — Time Management

Writing Goals: Part 8 — First Draft

Writing Goals: Part 9 — The Only Way Out Is Through

Writing Goals: Part 10 — Trust The Process

Here’s to 2015 being your creative and productive year yet!

2015 Film and Television Writers Calendar

December 22nd, 2014 by

While you have been busy hammering back egg nog and champagne over the holidays, the folks in our little part of the world (The Black List, Go Into The Story, The Black Board) have been busy creating a gift for the online writing community:

The 2015 Film and Television Writers Calendar

The calendar lists every major film festival, significant screenwriting and TV writing competition (including entry deadlines), awards ceremony, and a lot more. In sum, every date you need to make 2015 the best writing year yet. Plus you can export it to Google Calendar or iCal.

Please spread the word about the calendar and the URL: http://blcklst.com/calendar.

Now go kick some writing ass in 2015… and never miss an important date doing it!

Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 5] — Going Public

December 19th, 2014 by

So after four days of looking at the Past, Present, Future, and Practical Matters, the big day has arrived: Time to etch in virtual stone our writing goals for 2015. Oh, and one more little thing: It’s important that you go public with your goals.

Today: Going Public

Why go public?

Because if we just think about your goals, they are nothing more than illusions, hazy, half-baked phantasms in our heads, here and potentially gone like all the other zillion thoughts that spurt through our consciousness each day.

Because if you don’t formalize your writing goals, you may forget them.

Because having some sort of tangible, physical list gives you a touchstone to remind you what you need be focusing on throughout the year.

Because by proclaiming your goals to the Universe, they become real.

And the biggest reason of all: That simple act of courage — declaring your goals publicly — engenders positive energy, recalling the line by the Rev. Basil King who said, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

What then do I mean by going public?

Anything that gets the goals out of your head and into the physical universe. Such as:

* Write down your goals onto 3×5 index cards.

* Compose a letter to yourself with your goals, stick said letter in an envelope, and tack it to your desk where you can see and know it’s there when you write.

* Email your family and friends with the list of goals.

* Host a party at which you recite your goals and invite people’s moral and emotional support.

* Hire the Goodyear Blimp and flash your goals on it over the Rose Bowl.

Or you can simply post your writing goals for 2015 here on GITS.

Here’s how I look at writing goals: They are similar to the relationship a writer has with an outline. An outline can be a tremendous benefit to a writer, wrangling the story and giving shape to it. But once you hit FADE IN, you have to be willing to follow the characters wherever they take you. Sometimes the characters follow the outline perfectly. Other times, they don’t. In the case of the latter, you never stifle your characters, instead you have to have the courage to set your outline aside, and go with the creative flow.

Same thing with writing goals and whatever opportunities come along. Your goals give shape to the potential narrative of your creative year. Sometimes events lay out just like you figured they would. But other times, some project pops up, a unique opportunity to write a story about which you feel passionate. In those cases, you have to be willing to veer away from the schedule for your goals — not the goals themselves, just how and when you are go about realizing them.

Speaking of schedule, going public with your writing goals does not mean your planning work is done. It will do you little good if you generate a list of goals, but don’t figure out a time frame within which to accomplish those goals. So that is where we start the next step in the process on Monday: Working up a schedule. Following that on Tuesday through Friday, we will explore time saving and project management tips, mine and hopefully yours, to help facilitate reaching our writing goals next year.

For now, those of you who feel emboldened, I’ll see you in Comments and look forward to reading about your writing projects in 2015. And for those of you who want to keep that information to yourself, that’s completely fine. Just be sure to go public, even if it’s formalizing a list of writing goals on a 3×5 index card.

Bottom line: All my best to each of you in your creative endeavors in 2015 and beyond.

Onward!

Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 4] — Practical Matters

December 18th, 2014 by

In Part 1, we looked back at the Past, what we had accomplished as writers in 2013.

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

And in Part 3, we looked at the Future, visualizing where we’d like our writing to take us.

When trying to lock down writing goals, considering all those permutations is necessary, well and good.

However there is this little thing that impacts our plans. You know it, don’t you? That little thing known as Life?

It’s great to generate a list of things we want to accomplish, but if we don’t take into account the realities of our day to day, week to week, month to month existence, the practical matters of Life, then that set of goals becomes… unreachable. And if unreachable, it becomes… dispiriting. And if dispiriting… over time all our story ideas get dispatched to the dead-end land of dust and tumbleweeds… and our writing dreams wither and die.

To avoid that fate, you’ve got to be realistic.

Today: Practical Matters

It’s important to have goals, but you have to be S.M.A.R.T. about it. Once again: Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

Aim high. But deal with reality.

You have a job. Maybe you’ve got a second job. Or you’re in school.

You have friends. You have family. Maybe a spouse or a lover.

In other words, Responsibilities. You have them. I have them. And we can’t ignore them when coming up with a plan to reach our writing goals. Otherwise it’s not really a plan, is it, but rather nothing more than a wish list.

When I look at that S.M.A.R.T. list, the one that opens its jaws and roars at me, desperate to get my attention is this one: Realistic.

I am great at coming up with ideas. I am also great at making the leap. So when I have ideas, I am prone to jump into them.

Part of this is my belief in The Spirit of the Spec. You get an idea. You act on it. You put it out there. My decision to take a break from academics. Accepting an invitation to visit Aspen to see if I could make it as a musician. “I can do that,” my response to a question about if I could write a screenplay (when I had never written one before). The spec script K-9. Taking up teaching part-time. Starting this blog. Partnering with the Black List. Launching Screenwriting Master Class. Doing the Quest Initiative. On and on and on it goes, my life a litany of having ideas and acting on them.

Now that’s all good, of course, with respect to being a self-starter. Combined with being a military brat and having zero aversion to work, along with a pretty good track record for sticking to things and seeing them through to the end, I get a lot done.

The problem is I take on too much.

There. I said it. Yep. I ain’t Superman. I can’t answer all my emails. I can’t say “yes” to every request. I can’t take on every idea I come up with.

The simple fact is the key to setting realistic expectations is to be able to say NO.

In 2015, I am making a commitment to one particular writing project. And in doing that, I’ve got to say NO to some other things. I know this will be hard. I will have to fight my instincts more than once.

But in order to create quality with regard to this particular project, I’m going to have to be extra careful about the quantity of things I do.

Can anyone else relate to this issue? Do you tend to do too much?

The reality is unless you are single, have zero interest in a social life, live like a monk so don’t require much in the way of income, and can afford to write 20 hours per day, you have to figure out a way to handle the requirements of your life and make progress as a writer. Which means whatever writing goals you choose for 2014, they have to be realistic. Be honest with yourself. What of these things can I reasonably expect to accomplish next year?

One big note to remember: It’s not just about writing a screenplay, it’s about becoming a screenwriter. The idea that you would write a first spec script, sell it, then immediately transition into a working professional screenwriter is a flawed end game. You not only need to learn how to write screenplays, but also how to think like a screenwriter, how to work like a screenwriter, how to handle yourself like a screenwriter. All those simply take time. More than likely for you to have any realistic chance to succeed in this craft, you must give yourself more than one or two years of writing and preparation. Therefore my advice is not to think of 2015 as a year in which you will do everything, but rather one step in a process that may well take several years. The downside: Acknowledging you will be doing this for some time. The upside: You’re not laden down with an unrealistic set of goals, instead you have some achievable things on your list.

In other words — as noted above — an actual plan, not a wish list.

And for me, I need to work on this whole realistic thing in 2015.

Let’s continue this conversation in Comments, shall we? How do you make time to write? How do you find a balance between your Writing and your Life? How many years have you given yourself to pursue your writing aspirations?

Tomorrow is the big day: To lay out our specific writing goals for 2015. By committing to something in public, we make those goal more tangible and our commitment to them more real.

Let’s do everything we can to make 2015 our best creative year yet!

Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 3] — Where Do You Want To Go As A Writer?

December 17th, 2014 by

In Part 1, we looked back at the Past, what we had accomplished as writers in 2014.

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

Today we direct our self-reflection toward the Future. Not just 2015, 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. 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: 2015.

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!