It’s Never Too Late to Try Your Hardest
This is the 10th blog post in my screenwriting series, it all started here
Day 21 – 19,092 words down
I’m packing for the Sundance Film Festival! I can only imagine how disappointed I would be with myself if I hadn’t taken on this challenge and I was going back to Sundance without accomplishing much of anything this year.
I am so friggin’ happy that I finished the first draft of my very first screenplay.
And technically, I’ve finished the 2nd draft too. I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Looking at Rich’s notes gave me tons of ideas. I wrote 2 more scenes and now my word count is 19,081. So, I my initial “blind” calculation was off by 719 words (I should say ‘so far’ because I’m still editing). And I am sure there will be plenty more edits.
The important thing is that this “blind” calculation and daily word goal gave me the structure to move forward every day, even though I wasn’t sure if I was doing it “right”.
As you can see from this blog series, I had many, many moments of doubt, ups and downs, weakness and strength, but the accountability (knowing that my friend, Melani was going to ask me if I had written each day), the very specific goal of writing 900 words per day and finishing my first screenplay before leaving for Sundance, kept me pushing through those moments when I wanted to watch movies or sleep or eat or quit instead of write.
Now I’m actually thinking about printing out the 2nd draft to show my filmmaker friend that’s staying with us in Sundance. I know-big step, right? We’ll see. I’m not quite sure if I’m ready for any “non-husband-who-loves-me-and-knows-how-to-give-me-criticism” feedback yet.
But with each new pass through my screenplay draft, I gain more confidence. I get a little more clear about who these characters are and the story I want to tell. I know that my screenplay is getting better and better with each day. My fragile ego gets stronger and more certain about what I’m doing here. It’s still a big risk, this is a man that’s read screenplays for big players in the industry. But he is also a close friend and I can give him my speech about how to be gentle with me.
I have no idea what will happen with this screenplay. Right now, I don’t even know what my next step is. But I’m headed off to Sundance in 2 days with my first attempt in the bag and damn it sure feels good.
Post Script - Total Words Written 19,461
It was an exhilarating feeling being at Sundance Film Festival this year with my first script in hand. I let my filmmaker friend, Mike, who was staying in the same condo, read it. It was a bit nerve wracking but very exciting. As I nervously handed over my screenplay, the thing I really wanted to know from Mike was if there was a glimmer of possibility for me as a screenwriter. I didn’t care if it was the greatest screenplay ever, I just didn’t want it to be the worst.
Would he say “Oh my god, this sucks so bad”? Or would he take me seriously?
Mike was still sleeping when I left for my first movie screening the next morning. I saw my husband around lunch time and asked tentatively “What did Mike think?” and my husband replied “He said he likes it” then blah, blah, blah. It didn’t really matter to me. That’s all I needed to hear.
When I saw Mike later, he started his notes with, “Listen, you can write”.
He said this as if it were a “known fact”. I can write. I should know that I can write. Right? And yet, it felt as if some switch was flipped inside me, I was now comfortable telling other people that I have, in fact, written a feature length screenplay. And it might not be the shittiest screenplay in the history of the world.
Why did it take someone else’s acknowledgement (once again), for me to believe in my own ability? I wish I didn’t desperately need others to tell me I’m good.
I was surprised that three producers offered to read my script and give me notes. I laughed when they offered, but I think they were serious.
Mike and I talked a lot throughout the week about ways to make the screenplay better. He gave me many ideas to play around with. It was amazing to have someone, other than my husband, taking this screenplay seriously and talking about these characters like they mattered.
So now that I am back from the Sundance Film Festival and I have my very first screenplay under my belt, here’s what I’d like to share with you.
Anything is possible. 22 days seemed like a ridiculous goal a little over one month ago. Imagine what you could create in the next 22 days if you just decided right now to go for it?
There were so many days when my Inner Critic almost got the best of me. I wanted to quit. I was convinced that what I was writing was complete shit. Embarrassing shit. But that goal of just finishing it, no matter how awful it was pushed me through.
Having the specific goal of 900 words per day and the chart I created staring at me every day helped take away any excuses to goof off or skip a day. And it was great motivation to plug in the number of words I had written each day.
Here’s the finished chart/graph of exactly how many words I wrote each day. It was thrilling to see how quickly the words added up by just keeping to my goal of at least 900 words per day. Writing 900 words took me less than 2 hours on most days. I was usually done with my goal before 10am.
So, that’s my screenplay journey so far. I’ve decided to let it all marinate for a little while and get to work on completing a short film I wrote early last year. I have never done that either (been a filmmaker). I’m going to do it Ed Burnsie/gorilla style, using natural lighting and locations I can get for free. Using the resources I have, casting my friends & family, telling a story in a new way (new for me). It’s exciting and scary and I have absolutely NO IDEA what I’m doing.
I recently read this article from Ricky Gervais about fame. I loved this part:
I used to be the laziest, least ambitious person I knew. Well, lazy in terms of work. Career success, if you will. I had artistic ambition, I guess, but being a working-class Brit I believed it was better to never try than to try, and run the risk of failing.
Writing and directing The Office was the first thing I ever tried my hardest at. The reward was revelatory.
At 40 I was addicted. Not to success. I was addicted to trying my hardest. That’s the reward in itself. It’s what life’s about. The struggle. It’s the only way you can be proud. You can’t be proud of luck.
I started late, sure. But it really is never too late. Now I seize the day. And I love that day much, much more. I’m a workaholic. But as Winston Churchill said, “If you find a job you really love, you’ll never work again.”
So, there it is. That pretty much sums up what I’m feeling about writing my very first screenplay, filming my very first short film and embarking on a brand new journey. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing but I want to try my hardest.
It’s Never Too Late to Try Your Hardest, is it?