Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Measure of Success

Post by Trai
A student asked me the other day, in a sort of hushed voice, why I’d left Hollywood. There seemed to be some sense that it would be a sensitive subject, and she needed to take care not to dig at old wounds. I think there is an idea that when people walk away from the site of a dream, there is attached to it a sense of failure or incompletion, and therefore a need to grieve.

I assured her there was no reason to whisper about my defection. I’d needed a change of pace; I wanted to get back to novel-writing and could get more support elsewhere. It didn’t mean I’d stopped screenwriting, or stopped loving screenwriting, or would ever stop someone else from falling deeply, madly in love with it.

My entire goal as a writer, a producer, a development executive, and as a teacher is to facilitate others’ storytelling. I love writing. I love it to bits and bits and next to that, I love nothing more than when another writer has a breakthrough and throws down something so sensational it makes the hair on my arms stand to attention.

LA has plenty of people to teach screenwriting, and we all teach each other. Northern Colorado doesn’t have the same support structure, the same resources. Living here has given me the unique opportunity to bring what I love to a whole new audience -- the next round of screenwriters. There was a time when the old wife’s tale was that screenwriting could only be done successfully in LA. Now everyone has access to the tools to break in from anywhere in the world. Anywhere. Even Ft. Collins, Colorado.

I told my student that the only thing any of us need ever grieve is giving up or, just the opposite -- setting impossible expectations. Telling ourselves that if we’re not on the NY Times Bestsellers List, then we aren’t successful is just as damaging as quitting. I mean, that’s some measure of success! There are only 100 spots up there, and Stephanie Myer has six of them.

There are all levels of success in this world. Take, for example, a baseball player who played in the minors but never made it to the majors. He might have that ping of sadness every once and again, but more importantly is this: he got to do what he loved. Or, take a filmmaker who’s made his movie, but never gets distribution. Is he a failure for not having made $150 million on opening weekend? Or did he win because he accomplished the creative feat he set out to do?

I love what I do, whether I ever get to see my own work on the big screen, or “only” have the pleasure of helping one of my friends, students or clients secure an agent, get a deal, go to Sundance, premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater or… make it to the NY Times Bestsellers List.

The point is this: we’re all hoping for that flash of success that tells us we’re really, truly writers and that we shouldn’t just give up and walk away.

And my answer is this: if you’re writing, you’re already successful.
What do you think?
If you’re curious about Screenwriting and live in Northern Colorado, I’m teaching a 14-week advanced class beginning July 14th, and a Beginning Screenwriting class at Front Range Community College beginning January 2011. Let me know if you’re interested.


Lynnette Labelle said...

Nice post. Very positive. I wish the rest of the world would agree with you. Unfortunately, as soon as you tell someone you're a writer, they only believe you if you're published. Otherwise, you're a "wanna-be". Not to say we have to listen to the opinion of others, just that life would be easier if more people had the positive attitude you have.

Lynnette Labelle

Jamie Freveletti said...

Very good post! I agree that success is not measured by wealth and status alone, but it's difficult for a lot of people to maintain equilibrium when they see someone else's clock spin around in the same field while theirs clicks-albeit steadily- but no whirling.

I agree with Lynnette as well. I endured eye rolling (by some unenlightened people) when I was unpublished. I just wish everyone thought the way you do!

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Great post!

Anyone who can write is a writer!

It really ticks me off when you tell someone that you're a writer and they ask what you've had published and they laugh at you because you're not on the best seller list so they think you're not a writer!

Kerrie said...

Donna, I agree. A writer is someone who writes. We all define success in our own way and we must strive to reach our vision of success. :-)

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