There’s nothing fun about patience. In fact, it pretty much sucks. Hollywood is full of movies about leading characters who REFUSE to be patient, who demand action NOW, and who TAKE CHARGE of their lives and experience IMMEDIATE RESULTS. And yet, many of these same scripts sat around on shelves and in harddrives for YEARS before the right people read them and decided to put them into production.
Yes—Hollywood is tough, it’s dirty, it rewards the hustlers and the already-wealthy—but more than anything else, Hollywood is SLOW. This is an industry where it takes people months to read a hundred-page document, and years on end to develop the same document into a production-worthy project. It’s an industry where no one will call for months at a time, and where new writers can spend years in development before ever seeing a dime. The losers leave—and the winners wait. That is how the game works, and if you can’t handle a lifetime of fiddling your thumbs, this is not the career for you.
Sound dire? Well—that may be because THIS writer just had a TV pitch postponed for probably the 7th or 8th time earlier today. After a week of memorizing, practicing with a writing partner, psyching myself up for the big moment—one phone call, and we are now back ON HOLD. And why was this my pitch post-poned? Well—it seems that one of the execs we were meant to be pitching to called in sick this morning with fears that he may be infected with the dreaded SWINE FLU. And that was that. The world adapted—all eleven people meant to be in attendance were notified—and the pitch was put back in hiatus after MONTHS of waiting for it to be scheduled. Or make that RE-scheduled. This was not our first walk around the block with this company.
So—whattaya do? At the moment I was told the news, it was all I could do to keep my cool. What I WANTED to say was SCREW YOU. THE PITCH IS OVER. I DON’T NEED YOUR STUPID COMPANY TO APPROVE MY SHOW ANYWAY. But what I DID say was—NO PROBLEM. CALL ME WHEN IT’S RESCHEDULED, AND I’LL BE READY. And I will be. But BOY does it suck to get benched.
Waiting around was not a natural talent for me. I was always a “take action” sort of a person before moving out to LA, and naturally, I thought this go-to-it-ness would be just what the doctor ordered to blaze my trail through Hollywood. I was wrong. Turns out, to make it in Hollywood, you need to be PROFESIONALLY BIPOLAR. You need to TURN OFF emotional connection with the projects you create, TURN OFF your pounding drive to succeed, and TURN OFF that part of you that relies on professional success to fuel your sense of self-worth and achievement. But at the same time—when you DO get the big meeting, or you DO finally find yourself in that pitch—you need to be able to TURN BACK ON these traits just as quickly. At a finger snap, you will need to be able to reconnect with your passion, reconnect with your ruthlessness, and reconnect with the very same EXCITEMENT that you may have spent months beating into submission. And that’s the crazy truth about the life of a professional screenwriter.
A developed patience is something all writers must esteem to. For me, the trick to developing my patience was to focus more of my energy on the things in my life that I COULD control—such as my relationships, family, hobbies, etc. Rather than stress about what was or was not happening in my career, I needed to accept the fact that screenwriting (and filmmaking generally) will always be a WILD CARD. Every now and then, you may strike it big—but when your scripts DO receive professional attention, it will not be the result of your DRIVE or EXCITEMENT. It will be random. Your manager will have passed the script to one person, who passed it to another, who passed it to another—and somehow, someway it finally found its way to the right person’s desk.
Once I found a way to separate my self-esteem and sense of self-worth from how quickly or slowly my scripts were finding their way into the industry, everything started to get easier. Honestly—if the experiences of THIS writer sound anything like your own—find a different yardstick for measuring your personal progress, and you’ll be amazed by how much easier it is to find the patience to keep moving forward.