How to deal with the disappointments any screenwriting journey brings...
August 9th, 2021
Everyone pursuing a screenwriting career will eventually realize this journey is not for the thin of skin or for those who cannot handle the emotional ups and downs this business brings. If you haven’t yet experienced the soul crushing disappointment of finally having written a script that goes into development, but it doesn’t make it to production and sits on a shelf, I don’t envy you. It’s happened to me a handful of times out of my nearly two dozen paid screenwriting assignments. Learn this early — there are no guarantees in the screenwriting game. You take your lumps, heal, and move on to the next screenplay and the next one.
When I started writing, I thought everything that I wrote would sell, and everything that sold would be produced. Sadly, I experienced disappointment as part of my early journey, and it took a while to get used to the fact there is no solid footing on this screenwriting journey. The only thing you have control of is to keep writing and create a solid body of quality material.
We all have expectations after we complete a new screenplay. You know the creative highs that you felt during writing, and you want to let the world know that you finished. You’re also probably coming down from that creative high as you allow others to read it and await feedback. After the readers get back to you, did you receive opinions that were not exactly what you expected? Many times, we are pleasantly surprised, but too often we are let down by our high expectations.
Were you disappointed they didn’t appreciate the work enough — or you didn’t place in a screenplay contest, or maybe a producer passed on your project? It’s difficult because we assume when we finish a screenplay that everyone else is excited about it. You may even question the quality of what you thought was some of your best work only a week ago, but now because of the reaction you feel it’s crap. Disappointment lurks everywhere and you must reject it to survive over the long-haul journey to success.
If you’re looking for validation from others, you’ll come up empty and it will leave you disappointed and even depressed. Seek the validation from inside. Only you know what it took to complete your latest screenplay. It’s that sweet triumph of completing a new project and feeling like it’s your best work to date. Savor that feeling and embrace it often.
We know that criticism, rejection, and failure will always be a part of our writing journey, so the key is acceptance. It will make the emotional journey easier over the long haul. No matter what level of the business you work, you will receive notes and changes on your material. The key to surviving disappointment is detachment from the material and expectation from any outcome.
You can’t allow disappointment to crush your creative soul and send you into a dark and fearful place. Any writer who has found success will tell you their journey has been filled with ups and downs. If you can accept this and know it’s coming, you’ll be ahead of most who allow disappointment to drive them into the ground. Stay positive, focused, persistent, and keep filling your blank pages. Change your negative thoughts about yourself and your writing into a positive outlook where every new script is a new opportunity.
I’ve been able to handle these disappointments by viewing the entire process from a larger perspective and focusing on the task at hand — to get the script into better shape and move it through the process of finding the right producer. If you are lucky enough to be paid to write, it becomes your job. You go to work, write all day, come back tomorrow and lather, rinse, and repeat. Writers have pages to write and without filling those blank pages there would be no script. Take your feedback seriously, but don’t take it to heart. Trust in your writing abilities, and if you allow the disappointments to take you into a bad place, address your feelings but then focus on the task of writing again. If you want to play with the big boys and girls, at some point your writing is going to be criticized and rejected.
Here's good news — you don't need to suffer any more disappointments — only triumpsh when you complete a new screenplay. Detachment from the work is hard, but it helps so you’re not crushed every time you receive disappointing feedback, or experiencing having your script rejected. Also, be patient. A career does not happen overnight, and part of your journey is becoming a better writer and finding your unique voice — one that producers will grow to love, trust and hopefully employ. Don't worry this will not be your only screenplay so keep writing and dreaming.
About the Author
Mark Sanderson (aka Scriptcat) is a Los Angeles based screenwriter, author, script consultant, and sometimes actor blessed to be living his childhood dream of making movies with forty feature screenplays written in a wide range of genres. His work includes sketch comedy writing and performing as a founding member of The Amazing Onionheads sketch troupe, writing for MTV, his spec sale, two TV pilots, and twenty-three screenwriting assignments that have produced television premieres and worldwide distribution of his fifteen films.
Mark's films have also been recognized at festivals including a premiere and opening the Palm Springs Int. Film Festival, premieres at the Hawaii Int. Film Festival, St. Louis Int. Film Festival, The Rainbow Festival in Hawaii, Newport Beach Int. Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale Int. Festival, and nominated for the Starboy Award at the Oulu Int. Children's Film Festival in Finland.
Mark’s long association with award winning Hollywood filmmakers dates back to his first produced screenplay and has since worked with Academy Award® winning producers, veteran directors, and has written films starring Academy Award®, Emmy®, and Golden Globe® acting nominees. His book, "A Screenwriter's Journey to Success" is available on Amazon, and he offers screenplay consultation services, workshops, and webinars on his website: www.fiveoclockblue.net