Writers Write

January 7, 2010

One quotation I just added to the Writer Motivation and Inspiration quotations page on my blog is this one by Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”

In reading the introduction to the book The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, written by Karl Iglesias, I find one of those stupidly simple truths; you know—the kind of simple truth that smacks you upside the head and calls you “stupid!” for not already consciously knowing that truth and taking it to heart.

And that stupidly simple truth is…?

Simply this: that writers write.

Well, duh! … but … yeah!

Iglesias doesn’t use those exact words in the intro, but it’s a central theme of the passage.

The simple truth of this point—that writers write (and write and write and write)—is that most people who want to be great writers don’t do it nearly enough to ever hone their craft or prove their prowess.

The value of this simple (but not simplistic, mind you) truth is borne out in the background of several of the highly successful writers that Iglesias interviewed for this book. Many of them, such as Ron Bass, Steven DeSouza, Scott Rosenberg, and Michael Schiffer, talk about the volume of writing they did before they finally sold a piece or hit the big time.

Schiffer, for example, wrote 14 spec scripts (i.e., on speculation of ever selling it, as opposed to writing a script on assignment) before he was hired to write Colors. And Bass wrote four scripts during an 18-month period while he was doing daddy duty and practicing law, no less!

So much for any of the rest of us complaining that we don’t have time to write, ‘eh?

Write early and write often…

Here’s one more quote from the book’s intro that drove this “writers write” point home.

One hasn’t become a writer until one has distilled writing into a habit, and that habit has been forced into an obsession. Writing has to be an obsession. It has to be something as organic, physiological, and psychological as speaking or sleeping or eating. (Niyi Osundare)

I’m not as successful a screenwriter as I would like to be. However, having sold one original screenplay and several co-written ones, I am propelled to write more, seeing these smaller successes as solid indicators of my potential to get to where I want to be as a screenwriter (i.e., making a reliable living from it). And having now completed reading the introduction of Iglesias’ book The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, I know (duh) that I can boost my screenwriting success quotient by making it more of a habit and thus having a butt load of spec scripts ready to show.

Good book. So far.

An Influential Gift

December 25, 2009

Got a nice gift from a friend. I can tell, even from a cursory flip-through, this this gift, a book called The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, written by Karl Iglesias, is going to be influential to this blog, at least, but likely even influential to my career.

It will influence this blog because it’s a treasure trove of inspiring and thought-provoking quotations from well-known screenwriters or from others whose words are relevant to the career and efforts of writers. Since I have a large and growing collection of quotations for screenwriters broken down by topics (such as quotations on screenplay structure, scene structure, story characters and characterizationwriter motivation and inspiration, narrative and storytelling, and the lighter side of writing and being a writer), I hope to expand that collection as I read this books, adding selected quotes that provide me with direction and inspiration.

It will also influence my career because of the instructional value of the material, which Iglesias has grouped topically. Some of the topics are on the challenge of staying motivated, while others are about getting your script seen and sold, or about understanding the competitive landscape. Example topics:

  • Being Committed to a Career, Not Just One Screenplay
  • Being Comfortable with Solitude
  • Believing You’re Talented Enough
  • Becoming Possessed by the Story
  • Making Deadlines Your Motivator
  • Avoiding Distractions
  • Rehearsing Your Pitch until It’s Flawless
  • Not Being Paranoid about your Ideas Being Stolen

As you see: very practicable topics to a career-minded writer.

From the book, here’s a useful thought from Garrison Keillor for writers on the topic of avoiding distractions. “Close the door. Unplug the phone. Cheat, lie, disappoint your pals, if necessary, but get your work done.”