Monthly Archives: April 2012
My post Overcoming Rejection: Stop Allowing Others to Decide Who You Are talked about how we need to “be” the artists we want to be and not give other people the power to tell us whether or not we truly are artists. Only we can decide who we are. But it was pointed out that “being” without “action” won’t get you results.
Dreams don’t come true without you. You have to take action. In fact, you have to usually be in a perpetual state of keep-trying-don’t-give-up action.
Action backed by faith that the Universe is doing its part to arrange the right circumstances, timing and connections needed. As someone once said, it’s easier to direct a moving object than one that’s not.
But move with confidence and faith. Always focus on what it is you do want, not on what you don’t. Then take steps toward it.
Don’t strive. Don’t worry. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re in a do-or-die situation and that if your dreams don’t come true, your life is over. It’s not, it won’t be. Appreciate the life you have now, in this moment with a quiet contentment and joyful anticipation of what’s next. (Couldn’t we all benefit by being a bit more lighthearted and playful about our oh-so-heavy dreams? It’s easy to live too much in the future – thinking our “real” lives will start when this and that goal is attained. Life doesn’t work that way. It’s now. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to be happy now. And remember, happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” So true. Happy people tend to be more open to possibilities and opportunities that present themselves, too.)
So, here’s what you can do to keep walking steadily into your dreams:
- Learn your craft. Every artistic endeavor has it’s own craft elements that professionals master – that means you need to be continually learning, improving and practicing.
- Do your art. Write. Perform. Play. Paint. Spend more time actually doing your art than thinking about doing it.
- Put yourself out there. You have to be where the action is. Not necessarily physically, but participating at some level.
- Take chances. Whether hiring a consultant to advise you on your work, auditioning, to contacting other industry professionals (even those that you don’t think are reachable) keep presenting your work in ways that will allow you to gain the feedback you need to improve your art.
- Trust yourself first and most, but know that professionals in all mediums know how to accept and learn from credible feedback.
- Enjoy the process. Have fun with what you are doing.
- Think BIG and take small steps everyday toward that big dream.
You have nothing to lose by trying your best to live a creative life that makes you happy.
And in the end, living a happy, well-lived life is what matters, right?
Doug Richardson posted an interesting article on his blog this week called The Sex Factor. (If you haven’t read it, check it out, then come back here.) Now you may find it offensive, but he warns you of the content up front. I’m not condoning the behavior presented in the article, but I get it. And what the execs in the article are actually discussing is sales and marketing.
These are the decisions that fall on the business side of, well, this business. As writers (or actors) we aren’t always as tuned in to what this world entails. The fact that someone would use sex appeal as a decision-maker may not sound right (or be right), but it is a fact in a medium where people pay money to see attractive actors on the screen. Sex sells. It always has, it always will. But, it’s not the only thing that sells. And it’s not the only thing that goes into an executive’s decision-making.
Few of us have ever managed the multi-million dollar budgets or had our jobs on the line for the decisions we make with that amount of money. Just this week, Disney’s film chief, Rich Ross, resigned over the $200 million dollar loss on the John Carter film. The stakes are high when you are managing budgets and divisions in this realm.
What can we learn from Doug’s recounting in his post? Sales and marketability are key determining factors in the decision to buy, produce and hire in the film/TV industry. The judgements levied at actors over physical appeal may not be fair; but they exist, if for no other reason that when actors present themselves for casting, they are marketing their talent and their “physical presence” – in energy, looks, mannerisms, voice, and how they relate to other actors on screen.
Which brings us back to marketing. Emmy-award winning writer-producer Erik Bork posted on this topic today in Scriptmag in his article “Sending Queries to Literary Managers about a Screenplay.” This is well worth your time in reading. Erik reminds us that the industry is hungry – always has been and always will be – for marketable material.
Marketable material. That’s solid, saleable scripts and actors who can deliver and carry the weight and risk of hundreds of millions of dollars.
So I say before we all jump up and down in outrage at the “sex factor” – we might try to walk in the shoes of the executive responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars of stockholders’ money.
And we should probably write well, too.
Few professions are as subjective to the opinions of others as creative ones. Perhaps because artists are usually self-proclaimed. Yes, you can get a college degree in your artistic field, but that doesn’t make you an artist, does it? Usually not. You’re an artist when you decide to be one.
The only problem is we don’t trust ourselves, enough, do we? And we fall into the trap of validation. Or rather, letting other people’s opinions and job titles decide whether or not we really are artists.
We’ve all been there:
- waiting for an agent to decide if we actually are writers
- waiting for a script to sell to decide if we can call ourselves screenwriters
- waiting for a manager or label to sign us to decide if we are musicians
Then, once that happens, we start to look at numbers:
- large sales = we must be artists after all!
- fans and followers flow in = we’ve made it!
- second, third, fourth deals are made = we’ve arrived!
Or have we?
- sales fall = we wonder if we aren’t good enough after all
- fans attack, criticize, followers unfollow = we question our talent and abilities
- deals break, we’re passed over, agents resign = we wonder what we were thinking in the first place
Yes, it takes dozens of other people and circumstances to align to achieve monetary success in any artistic field. But would we be more successful if we stopped allowing other people to decide who we are and we made a decision to be who we want to be?
I think so. People sense vulnerability and insecurity. If you don’t know who you are and you give other people the power to decide who you are, they’ll decide.
Would people relate to us differently if we held a firm conviction of who we are and did not leave that up for debate for anyone?
Would being an artist hurt less? If we were judged on our work and didn’t mix it up with our identity? After all, if you’re a doctor, you’re a doctor – doesn’t matter whether patients like you or not. You don’t question whether you’re a doctor, you know you are. Everyone else knows you are, too. Same goes for almost every profession I can think of.
Rejection is 97% perception and only 3% fact. We attach huge meanings to rejection as artists, hinging our identity, our self-worth, our value even as human beings on the very subjective opinions of others. In reality, we’re inflicting this pain on ourselves.
If we didn’t leave our identity as artists up for debate, we’d start to see that when someone says no, it may have nothing to do with the quality of our work at all. It certainly has nothing to do with our identity at all. People have very refined tastes for what they like and don’t like, what interests them and doesn’t. I know I do. I can tell within the first 3 seconds of a song whether or not it interests me. Does that mean that the song isn’t good or that the artist isn’t a “real” artist? Hell, no. Whether I like or don’t like a book, a song, a film has everything to do with me and very little, if anything, ever, to do with the artists who created it.
The business of art has created some very odd dynamics. The idea that you submit art to an “agent” in the hopes of finding a match are very much like trying to find someone to marry you. It doesn’t work that way. You need to be the best artist you can be, learn your craft, do quality work, stay true to who you are, don’t pan to trends and say what your spirit has to say. You need to be happy, enjoy creating, love what you do. Be content but ready for what’s next.
Then fate steps in. Magic happens. You meet the right person at the right time in circumstances you could never have imagined.
You have to have faith and you have to be yourself. Wholly, truly, confidently.
That’s what attracts the right business decision-maker to your work, and more importantly, to you as an artist.
You decide you’re an artist.
Others respond – positively and negatively - to your work.
You keep being an artist.
The key word is “be.”
Screenwriters, when was the last time you really thought about the person who will act out your Story?
Have you considered the emotional, spiritual and mental aspects that will impact an actor who embodies a character you create? We can’t leave these people out of the equation when we’re writing, folks. We have to remember that, ultimately, we are writing for them.
And they are people. We need to see them as such.
To often we fall prey to seeing A-list actors through the alienating veil of “celebrity” and forget that they are human beings. We see them for what we stand to gain from having them attached to our work, and do not see them as creative professionals as human and vulnerable as we are. We forget that they are co-creators of our stories. It’s their skill, their creative spirit, their insight that brings our characters to life.
But it’s more than that.
We use words to write our Stories. An actor has to use his or her body, heart and spirit to physically and emotionally portray our words. We need to be mindful of what it is we are asking them to do and be as human beings, for our stories.
I write drama that involves difficult scenes of human suffering. Scenes that force me to get up from my chair and walk away because it touches me that deeply. Scenes that are tough on characters. Scenes I know will be tough on actors.
I write mindful of what it is I’m asking an actor to experience. I wonder about the spiritual toll it will take on their soul. I consider how acting out violence or suffering will change them. How embodying a character will affect their energy, their spirit, their feelings about life, their world, their loved ones.
You can argue that acting is make-believe. I don’t buy it. Acting, done well, goes deeper than that in the actor. There is a part of the actor that will always carry the character.
Don’t ever lose respect for actors.
Honor them as human beings when you script their work. Be mindful of them as human beings first, actors second.
Not only will it be beneficial for the actor, it will deepen your characters’ human qualities.
5 Ways to Respect Actors in Your Script
1. Be mindful of the human spirit no matter what genre you’re writing.
2. Consider how the Story will affect an actor’s heart, spirit and mind.
3. When writing scenes, put yourself in the actor’s (not the character’s) place. What do you feel?
4. Be aware of the physical toll your Story requires.
5. Give actor’s breathing room in the script. Chances are your characters need it, too.
Michelle Goode (Twitter: @sofluid) kindly included one of my posts in her The WritesoFluid Daily today (thank you, Michelle!) – and my post was on Confidence. I wanted to expand a bit more on that here, because it’s something that writers often have a hard time developing.
First off, confidence is not to be mistaken for attitude or arrogance. It’s not thinking that you’re better than someone else. Humility is always an element of true confidence, because it allows you to interact with people as human beings and not see them just for what you stand to gain from them. Confidence comes from knowing who you are and that’s not always an easy thing to do when you’re a writer (at any level of the profession).
Knowing who you are involves seeing your work as valuable. It’s also about being able to separate your sense of self-worth from opinion. Writers work in a media that is highly subjective (all art is) to opinion; and while there are ways to clearly improve craft, at the end of the day, only the writer can say whether or not he or she wrote what was intended. I don’t know who to credit for this quote, but it’s one we should all memorize: “Don’t let others opinion become your reality.”
As a writer, you alone have the right to decide the value of what you’ve written. You alone know the Story. You alone get to decide whether to continue writing or marketing it, or not.
What I often see is that we tend to put too much power in the hands of others. It’s true that business executives have the power to buy or not buy our work. And that will always be the case. Executives and deal-makers of all ranks have the power to make commerce decisions about our work.
But what I see too often is that writers place their worth and credibility as a writer in the hands of others. As if someone else gets to decide whether or not we get to be writers? Does that make sense? If you are a lawyer, you’re a lawyer – no matter what others think of you. If you’re a doctor, you’re a doctor. A teacher, a teacher.
If you’re a writer, you’re a writer. Right? No matter what others think of you? Right.
Confidence comes by deciding that you are the one who gets to decide who you are. Others will always be judging our work – some rightly, some wrongly. But you have to know and believe in who you are.
It’s that confidence that leads to professionalism.
Professionalism means you value yourself as an equal contributor to your field, your industry, your art. You meet others – executives, colleagues, networkers, readers, assistants – as peers, with respect. You treat them with kindness, not because you want something from them, but because we’re all human beings just trying to do our work and none of us knows the full backstory we each bring into the room. It means you assume goodwill. (Mark Sanderson (Twitter: @scriptcat) wrote a great post on this and successful meetings yesterday – read it here.)
Will you get nervous? Of course, we all do, every time. But you’ll calm your nerves by reminding yourself that no matter who the person you’re meeting is – he or she is, after all, a person just like you. You’ll remember that when you’re talking with them. You’ll remind yourself that no matter what they decide, you are still a writer, your work is still your work, and you have the courage to take the next step. They don’t get to tell you who you are. You do.
Confidence comes from courage. Being willing to say “yes, I can” even when you’re plagued with doubts. It’s stepping up and taking a risk. And knowing, that your worth as a human being has nothing to do with your work as a writer. Your worth as a human being cannot be changed by anyone’s opinion. It’s fixed, by a benevolent Universe.
So, you really don’t have as much to lose as you fear, do you? What’s the worst that can happen? Someone who could say yes, says no. So? Does that mean your life as a writer is over? No. Only if you decide it is.
What will you decide?