Every year, I return to LA after a refreshing jaunt through my personal history in New York and New Jersey to be asked over and over, “SO—what are your resolutions?” And every year I cringe. If I have ‘resolved’ to accomplish something before next December, it’s probably something I’d rather keep to myself. And if I haven’t made any resolutions, I always feel mildly obligated to make something up that sounds appropriately ambitious and new-agey. Something like ‘I plan to finish a new screeplay, to sell the one I finished last year, and to spend more time reading the classics to old people.’ But the truth is this: I’ve only ever had one resolution, and it’s as true on January 1st as it on June 7th, or September 23rd--
I PLAN TO SURVIVE.
Hollywood is a tough place to forge a career—and even tougher if you grew up with non-film parents a long way from the spotlight. Every year that a fledging, or even mildly-successful screenwriter is able to stay afloat and to keep stocking their freezer full of frozen pizzas is a good one. If you’re staying productive, working to finish new material, and keeping up with your contacts, then you’re doing all you can. Success cannot be planned for or predicted; you can only strive to create the CONDITIONS where success can happen, and be open to following new leads as they arrive.
Still, I understand that a new calendar year, despite it’s obvious insignificance, DOES inspire new hope, and ties in very nicely with the American obsession with rebirth and redemption. And although January 1st is, in my view, an arbitrary date, I certainly agree that any opportunity to ask oneself ‘what am I doing with my life, and how can I do it better?’ should be taken advantage of. If you’re a working screenwriter looking to improve your output, or seeking out new ideas for developing your career, allow me to recommend the following elusive ScriptFaze articles:
Monday Mayhem; Getting Yourself ON SCHEDULE
How to Get Rich Writing TV
The Script-Tastic Screenwriting Method
It’s not the idea of SETTING GOALS that bothers me—just the idea of setting goals with an absolute DUE DATE. Unless you have a clear path towards self-financing your own projects, no screenwriter can script a time-frame for their own success: You can never PLAN to sell a film before the end of 2009, but you CAN plan to finish a script and prepare it for the market. And while you CAN’T plan to make 150k over the next year, you CAN plan to do everything within your power to carve out time for your screenwriting, and to continue to make writing the priority in your life. In other words—you can plan to SURVIVE. You can plan to WORK HARD, and to keep yourself in a position where SUCCESS CAN HAPPEN.
The next time someone asks me what my New Year’s Resolution is, I will tell them the truth:
To stay in the game for another year!