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Ask the Expert: 3 Keys to Succeeding as a Writer

Last month, Dave's article about how to fail as a writer got such a reaction he wanted to share more thoughts on success and failure...

If you want to succeed as a writer, decide right now that you are going to move towards that goal. The following 3 keys will unlock the door to that goal—your potential success. Just remember, you have to stride through that door once it is open.

1. Just say no

Why didn’t you think of this before? Stop watching television, or at least cut your TV time in half. Think of other low-benefit, time-consuming tasks that can be cut back to make way for more writing time. Rather than wait for huge blocks of time to magically appear, write when brief moments of time open up. Isn’t that what you do when you read an exciting novel? You sneak in 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there. I have a client who wrote an entire script in four months, and never spent more than 45 minutes at any one writing session. Make this fun! After all, writing truly is its own reward.

Make realistic writing goals at the beginning of each week, and then make time to achieve them. If your Muse doesn’t fly down from Parnassus, forge ahead anyway. In the words of Stephen Crane, “You can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club.” Remember, success comes one page at a time. Decide now to reach your God-given potential.

2. Excuse those negative voices

You know which ones. “You’ll never amount to anything,” and “This is the biggest waste of time since Dole ran for president.” Ignore those parental and jealous-friend comments and replace them with “I’m gonna write a page of dialogue right now” or something else that’s affirming. It’s true you may never be William Goldman, but he will never be you either. Go through your fears and watch them dissipate like the morning haze before the sun.

Give any ideas of perfection a swift kick in the buttocks. Your goal is excellence, not perfection. No script is perfect. And if you don’t achieve your writing goal this week, don’t fret and fume. You will achieve next week’s objectives.

3. Market when you’re ready

Do not send out query letters before the script is ready. I recommend you do what professionals in other fields do—create a marketing plan. You’ll find helpful advice and worksheets in The Screenwriter’s Bible. Prepare for some rejection, but be pleasantly persistent in your efforts.

Most importantly, clear your mind and focus. Those who achieve success primarily do it because they are persistent. Yes, there is some luck (I call it timing) involved, but you can’t hit a home run if you are down in the den watching dreary dramas on TV. You’ve got to step up to the plate…and keep swinging…er…writing!

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