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How to Create and Sustain a Writing Career

22 April 2015

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 April 22, 2015
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Remember last week, when I wrote about going to a film seminar in Paris? Meg LeFauve, one of the writers of Pixar’s upcoming INSIDE OUT, and Ryan Rowe, who has written numerous movies for Disney, talked about how to write a great family film.

 

Now it’s time to reveal Meg and Ryan’s tips on how to create and sustain a writing career.

 

Here they are, in no particular order!

 

Set your Specific Intention.  For many years Meg was a producer, and ultimately ran Jodie Foster’s production company. Later in her career, she decided she wanted to be a writer. As she began writing scripts, she was able to get a meeting at Pixar. She didn’t get the job, but saw the room where Pixar’s Brain Trust meets. It’s here that the head honchos and filmmakers meet to talk about story, character and art. In that moment, Meg set her intention– GET IN THAT ROOM. She said that it felt like too much to ask to be a writer in that room, so her goal simply became GET IN THAT ROOM. And although she zigged and zagged on her way there, she made it happen by taking daily action steps. Mostly, by writing.

 

Connect with screenwriter friends at your level.  Ryan told the story about getting his first job. It came through a friend from UCLA who was too busy writing on a TV show to do the first draft of a low budget feature. He referred Ryan and another friend and that’s how they got their first paid gig. Sometimes it’s not a matter of networking above your level with producers or studio execs, but AT your level with your fellow writer buddies. Stay close with people who are doing what you are doing. Help each other.

 

Don’t be Crazy.  Filmmakers don’t like to work with crazy. Be reasonable, listen to notes, don’t be argumentative. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion, but one of the most important impressions you want to make in a meeting is that you will be fun and easy to work with. Producers and Execs are looking to see if you’re cool. They’re going to be hanging out with you a lot if you get the job. Don’t act crazy.

 

Be Nice To Everyone.  Meg first started out as an assistant at a large agency. There was a guy in the mailroom that she was nice to. One day, he got fired and as he walked away from the building, distraught, she gave him a huge smile (not knowing what had just happened.) Years later, she’d just started her career as a writer, and he ‘d become a very successful producer. Even though she’d completely forgotten about their interactions, he remembered her kindness VERY clearly. Karma baby.

 

Listen for the Note Underneath the Note.  Your writer friends will give you feedback based on how they would approach a rewrite. Do their notes match your intention for the project? If not, think about what problem they are trying to solve, then solve it in your own way.

 

Seasoned Producers Know A Lot.  They’ve been around the block eight million times. They know things you don’t. Listen to their notes and solve the problems they identify in a way that makes you happy. But solve the problems.

 

Don’t be Precious About Your Ideas.  Don’t focus years and years on a single project. Finish one script then move on. The more you write, the better writer you will become and the more opportunities you will find.

 

Have Faith that Your Creative “Cup” Will Be Refilled.  If you’re feeling drained, or like you’ve ‘got nothing left,’ have faith that inspiration will strike again. Read, be creative. Keep writing.

 

Take Action!  Have you set a specific intention for your writing career and are you taking action steps toward making it happen? Do you connect with your writing peers? Are you focused on being a sane, creative, fun person, one that others want to hang out with? Are you kind to EVERYONE? When getting feedback, do you listen for the note underneath the note, and solve the problem in your own way? Do you have multiple irons in the fire? Do you have faith that your creativity will be renewed, even when you’re depleted?

 

All of these these things took me years to learn. Set your intention and work every day toward making it happen. Don’t be precious about your ideas. Listen to people with experience and trust your own abilities.

 

Thanks to Meg and Ryan for sharing their stories and advice!

 

Happy Writing!

 

xo Pat

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