If you’re trying to break in and feeling like you’re getting nowhere, you’re probably suffering from writer depression. It’s real and it’s a mother. It can cause writer’s block but it’s much more dangerous. Because it can steal your passion. If you had listened to William Goldman in the last decades of his life, you would have thought this guy was a bitter writer who never achieved any degree of success. Hollywood managed to break the spirit of a two time Oscar winner. So you’re not alone.
Years ago, I got a call from a boutique agency after making the finals of a top contest. The agent started reading my script at midnight expecting to cast it aside after ten pages. But he had the kind of experience I talk about in a previous post. He watched my movie. And he loved it. He needed to run it by his senior partner before he could officially sign me as his client.
Three days later I spoke with that agent and his partner. The senior agent convinced his junior that my story didn’t have any set pieces. That usually means trailer moments or big scenes that can sell a movie. He used the monkey dance from Can’t Buy Me Love as an example. For those of you who never saw the film, Patrick Dempsey is a geek trying to be cool so he makes up a dance at the prom. And all the popular kids end up dancing along. This agent began rattling off more changes my script needed. When he came up for air, he said, “Let me be clear. If you do this rewrite I’m not saying we will represent you. But we’ll take another look at it.” In just seventy-two hours, that agent went from enjoying my movie to believing something was wrong with it. And I went from the highest high to the lowest low.
I questioned if I was meant for this business. Sure, you can easily give up at a time like this. But it’s these moments that teach you that no one will ever have the passion for your work that you do. No one. So if you’re going to make it, you have to get your passion back.
The negativity that flows through this business will knock on your door at some point. When you’re down, do whatever it takes to recharge your batteries. Maybe that’s writing a short and shooting it. Or starting a new script. For a lot of writers, there was one movie that inspired them to do this. Watch that movie again. Personally, I read my old scripts because you can feel passion on the page. It’s like a jolt of adrenaline. It reminds me why I’m doing this and gives me the strength to move forward.
It takes so long to get anything made in this business that only real passion can push a project to the finish line. I have witnessed writers sell their work with little more than passion. It’s not that those projects were future Oscar winners or blockbusters. Enthusiasm is contagious. Most of the people in this industry are just as weary as you are. So when they come across a writer full of passion, they want a little of what he’s got. It’s a powerful tool. Learn to use it to your advantage.