Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 229 - A Little Advice on Working with Others

If there's one thing I would tell anyone who is entering that stage of his or her career where working with producers or directors or agents or talent is about to become a reality, it would be this: be agreeable.

That sounds so simple, so rudimentary and obvious that it hardly merits mentioning. Don't be fooled, though. In a business where connections are sometimes of greater importance than talent, it's imperative that you're someone others can get along well with. (And if you're not, pretend. At least in the beginning.) That alone will help you progress in your career. Though I still haven't really been paid for my work, my congeniality with one of the producers on the post-Apocalyptic spec is undeniably what prompted her to recommend me for the work I'm currently doing on the sci-fi collaboration. It is also to thank for my increasingly strong relationship with my collaborator, someone who has immeasurable amounts of industry experience, which I hope he will bestow upon me. So be kind. Listen. Nod. Smile. Disagree and stick to your artistic guns when necessary, but pick your battles wisely and always do so politely and respectfully.

If you told me I was allowed two bits of advice to dispense, the second would be this: be prepared to do the work. No one owes you anything. Your great idea will forever be just that - a great idea - if you're not ready to put in the blood, sweat, and tears required to make it a strong script. Very rarely will something sell on the idea alone, especially in this climate, and almost certainly not for an unknown writer. I am an unknown writer. If you haven't sold anything yet or been commissioned to do rewrites, you are, too. The good news is that we can still take the industry by storm. The truth is that ours is an uphill battle. Unlike Sisyphus, we're not destined to let go of the boulder, though. We can fight our way to the top of the hill, pushing and pulling the entire time. People might like us; they might even desperately want to help us. But we're the ones who have to do the actual writing, and we're the ones who need to slave away at the computer, in the coffee shop, on the pad of paper, or however else we get our work done. Unless we have pedigree backing us, and sometimes not even then, we must fight our way in. That's both the joy and the frustration of our situation. Rather than being disheartening, though, it's encouraging. We hold the keys to our futures, and while nothing's a guarantee, knowing that if we put in the time and energy and never to consider future success a given will be all the motivation we need. Remember that; fight your way in, and do it politely. 

If, finally, I was told you'd listen to a third piece of advice, it would be this: don't judge your success by others'. This is something I am guilty of on and off. Even today, I slid back into this trap. It's so easy for me to read about celebrities who are my age or just slightly older (let's not even go into those who are younger) who have already broken in. They have a feature coming out. Or a show. Worst is when I went to school with them or know them from some other setting. I remember when we were in the same boat, trying to get through school while nursing dreams of success. Why are they where they are now, but I'm not. No, no, no. Don't do that to yourself. My friend told me today, "I think when you feel envy for what someone else has accomplished that's how you know what you should be doing." He's right. If I didn't care about those guys' successes, if I didn't think about them in terms of where I am, if I didn't take even the slightest moment's hesitation, then perhaps I'd lost my drive. Not necessarily the case, but it's when I no longer crave that accomplishment that perhaps I'll be content to throw in the towel and chalk this all up to a good attempt. 

That, or that's when I'll truly be free enough to write uninhibited and take things to the next level.