Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters: Believe You're Talented

Successful screenwriters must believe it can be done. Strong belief is the driving force behind all art that was once visualized before becoming a reality.
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Having talent is like having blue eyes. You don’t admire a man for the color of his eyes. I admire a man for what he does with his talent.
—ANTHONY QUINN

To do anything successfully, after the initial desire, you must believe it can be done. Strong belief is the driving force behind all art that was once visualized before becoming a reality. In Hollywood, it’s not enough to have an “I think I can do it” attitude. It has to be “I know I can do it!” We are all blessed with talent. It’s just a matter of notic- ing it and, more importantly, developing it. Anything is possible if you believe it. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Michael Brandt: If you practice enough, you start developing a trust in your own abilities as you see the response you get. When we wrote that first script, it seems like everyone who read it wanted to help us. It kept getting passed up and up and up. That’s when I first started thinking maybe we’re good at this. Turns out that generally the stuff we liked was also good. Or at least we sold it that way.

Laeta Kalogridis: Even the best writers think they’re terrible on bad days (or, you know, every day). Every aspiring writer has to walk the tightrope between having enough confidence to believe they have talent and something worthwhile to say, and being able to recognize when their writing is not working. The market may respond to you, it may not; that’s not really the measure of a writer. Writers write. Nothing stops them.

However, that doesn’t mean you’ll get paid.

Jim Kouf: You never know if you have talent. You’re testing your- self with every script, so I never assume I’ve solved any riddles. I just keep trying to write something well. I never called myself a writer until somebody else called me a writer, and paid me for it. I wrote a script that got some attention and people started hiring me to rewrite other scripts. But it wasn’t until I kept getting hired and I started mak- ing a living at it that I believed I was doing something right.

Eric Roth: Winning a contest helped validate me. It got me an agent but I’ve always had a real sense that I had a good visual imagination. I’ve always had the arrogance or confidence that I could write good characters. That’s about it. I went through a learning process just like anyone else.

Michael Schiffer: The first thing any writer has to ask himself is, “How do I know I have talent?” The answer is, you don’t know. When I first started out, I’d cook dinner for my friends, and then make them listen to what I had written that day. If I wasn’t a good cook, there’s no way anyone would have stayed. I could see them sitting there with such pity in their eyes, probably thinking this was just terrible and that I was just nuts.

Ed Solomon: Once in a while, you have an inkling that you may have a bit of talent when you make a little private connection by your- self in a room, a little scene that works or a great idea that surprises you. But the majority of the time, you’re just slugging it out, confused, unable to see the forest from the trees, and doubting yourself, won- dering if what you’re saying has any value, or if you have the ability to make it work. Then when you finish something, and you think it’s the greatest thing that’s ever been written—three days later you feel it’s an utter waste of ink and paper, and you wonder how you’ll ever write anything again. I don’t know how you overcome that. I just keep doing it because no one has offered me a better job yet.

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