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BALLS OF STEEL™: Going for the Gold

Screenwriters going for their big break in Hollywood is not unlike an athlete's pursuit of Olympic dreams. See what it takes to win on both counts.

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Like many other people around the world, I’ve been watching the Olympics. The tone, fit, god-like bodies, glistening with sweat, some achieving their dreams, some crying tears of disappointment. All heroes.

My favorite part of the events isn’t seeing which country dominates; it’s listening to the behind-the-scenes stories of athletes who lost, coming back four years later to kick some serious ass and win the gold.

Lessons learned from failure.

I have never in my life learned a lesson from winning without having failed first. Never. But when I have fallen down, lost all hope, and been beaten to a pulp, that is when I finally see I need to adjust a behavior or pattern to get past whatever is keeping me from success… which is usually me.

We’ve all exhibited self-destructive behavior at some point:

  • Submitted that script we knew wasn’t ready.
  • Clung onto one we knew was ready out of fear of rejection.
  • Pushed away solid, constructive notes because we didn’t have the energy for a rewrite.
  • Avoided going to a pitchfest because the year before we got too many passes.
  • Aligned ourselves with writing partners, good and bad, out of fear of writing alone.
  • Took advice our “Spidey senses” knew was wrong because we were insecure about trusting our own gut.
 USA's Allyson Felix (left) comes home to win the Women's 200m Final from Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (right) at the Olympic Stadium, London (Photo by EMPICS Sport - EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)

USA's Allyson Felix (left) comes home to win the Women's 200m Final from Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (right) at the Olympic Stadium, London (Photo by EMPICS Sport - EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)

The first step to success is getting out of your own way and gaining focus. The second step is working hard, pushing yourself to limits you never thought possible.

But imagine training like a fiend, eating, sleeping, sweating for the dream, then your event comes. It lasts only seconds… and you lose. Worse, you can’t get another shot at it for four years!

At least as writers, we have the ability to pitch anytime we want just by picking up a phone. We don’t need to put our dreams on pause except to write and rewrite our scripts to perfection. When they are ready is entirely within our control.

I listened to American 200-meter runner Allyson Felix being interviewed about her four-year wait, “I’m a people pleaser. I had to cut things out this year and be selfish.”

One shot every four years. One. Shot. I'd say being selfish is acceptable.

So she trained with the focus of a winner, only carrying the defeat of someone who lost to motivate her instead of define her. She found a great coach and did everything he said, even if she hated it.

That’s what writers need to do, too.

Anytime we get rejected, we need to listen to the notes and work harder to make our scripts and writing better. Or maybe the writing is fantastic but our understanding of the industry and how things really work is what needs to be studied. Either way, it’s our job to give our dreams of being produced writers every ounce of our energy… unless the dream is something you’re just paying lip service to.

Perhaps those are the first questions you need to ask yourself: “Do I really want this? How far am I willing to go to get it?” Be honest.

Those Olympic athletes want it. It’s in their eyes.

Just moments before the race started, I watched Felix shake her legs as she was on the track, staying loose. The announcers were calling out each runner. Her stare was ferocious as she focused on the finish line. They called her name, and she instantly switched to gleam a gorgeous smile to the crowd, then quickly slipped back into the eye of the tiger. Intense focus.

The gun fired, and seconds later, she was crossing the finish line, finally winning gold at her third Olympics. It took twelve years for her to achieve her dream.

Twelve long, hard years of focus and determination.

How many years have you put into writing? How many scripts are in your drawers? Do you want this bad enough to keep writing script after script until one finally gets noticed… possibly twelve years from now?

After the race, she exclaimed, “It’s never easy. There are tons of hardships along the way. You just can’t give up and lose sight of your dream.”

Guess what?

She just described the life of a writer.

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