Friday, July 10, 2009

24 and Counting

It feels like it was just a couple months ago that I was sitting down and writing about my goals for 23. Here I am now at 24, an age that has nothing going for it except that it's almost 25. We can choose any day of our lives to reflect on progress and set goals, but I like to check in for a life analysis on my birthday. It’s our personal new year’s day. Looking back at the goals I set for myself a year ago, I can’t say that I’m satisfied with the recent past. But I’m very excited for the future, and a good deal of it has to with the fact that I finally want lots of other things to be great in my life aside from my writing.

The first goal I remember setting for myself at 23 was placing in a screenplay competition. The year before, I had done well and made it to the semi-finals in a competition with my thesis script from NYU. This time around I had finished an action/horror spec. It was a ton of fun to write and I still think it’s got some of my best material to date. It’s the only script I entered into a competition and I didn’t advance one round. Some of these competitions sure make you wait a long time for disappointment. I haven’t given up on the competition circuit yet, and don’t expect that I will anytime soon.

The second goal was to have conversations with three people I've never met before who work in a relevant corner of the industry. I did pretty well with this goal, although today I wish I hadn’t phrased it as someone in a “relevant” corner of the industry. At this point any corner of the industry is relevant. The top tier LA set designer I met at a party is going to be able to help me with my pursuit of being a Hollywood screenwriter a lot better than the LA/NY screenwriter I never met. Luckily I did have a chance encounter with a working screenwriter who lives in New York and continues to work with some big names in the industry. I hope to pick his brain further soon. I also had a great conversation with a screenwriter who took a major Hollywood studio to court over claims they stole his material. He eventually won at the end of an ordeal that spanned many years. That encounter was more cautionary than inspiring, but it can never hurt to understand the potential dangers that lurk in the industry.

The last goal was to have six scripts polished to the point where I wouldn’t hesitate showing them to somebody in the industry. I failed miserably here, but I think part of the reason was that some of my previously valued ideas suddenly didn't seem as movie worthy, or I realized they were a really tough sell for a beginning screenwriter. I have to be honest though, the previous year has been plagued by lack of motivation as well as stubbornness. I got notes from an established LA manager on where my action/horror spec needed to go, and I haven’t acted on those notes in any way. I’ve spent a lot of time this past year not being happy and fulfilled by my writing. It's hard to press on when your therapy starts feeling like torture.

I’m a writer and that’s how I want to make a living. Everyone in my life knows that, and when people want to check in on me, especially those I'm not in regular contact with, they ask me how the writing is coming. But these days I want people to ask about more than the writing. Some people say life is long, others say life is short. I haven't decided for myself yet, but I do know we have the capacity to be great at so many different things. I plan on being a better writer by 25, but I'm going to accomplish that by being great at other things. When the writing slump hits, I'm not going to wait it out by watching movies and playing video games. I'm going to practice other skills and take on new hobbies. I'm convinced that if I can be fulfilled through other endeavors, then I can afford to wait for the words to return to me. When the words do return, I'll have the positive energy from other facets of my life propelling me back into my craft. The first two new endeavors that I've taken on are Kendo, which I've been doing for a few months now and studying spencerian penmanship seeing that I never learned cursive. I don't have any goals for 24 directly related to screenwriting, but I know this will be one of my most pivotal years of screenwriting to date.