How to Quit Your Job And Follow Your Screenwriting Dream
The aspiring screenwriter’s dream is to quit their nine to five job and write to their heart’s content. However, in a topsy-turvy climate like Hollywood’s, is it ever a good idea to quit your day job? While most realists (practical Debbie Downers, really) might say that’s a bad idea, if you have a will – meaning an entrepreneurial spirit – there is a way.
The first step is, really, asking yourself: how badly do you want it? No matter how much you might loathe your cubicle buddy or dislike the drudgery of your paycheck-to-paycheck existence, leaving a secure and stable job won’t be easy. If you want to follow your screenwriting dream, you must be all in. You have to be more than dissatisfied with your current circumstances; you have to so stubbornly passionate about screenwriting, so delightfully defiant against the odds, that you know, with almost every fiber of your being, this is the only option for you. Option B no longer exists. The only way out is through.
Declaration Of Independence From Your Job
Then you must decide on a date when you will quit your job. Don’t make it a “when the time feels right” sort of flaky declaration. Claim it. Tell your friends and loved ones when you’ll be putting in your notice to make it a reality, and then…do it.
It will be your stubborn passion that will not only help you make that all mighty decision to hit “send” on your resignation letter to your boss, but it will also help you make sense of the troubled times ahead. Because, oh yes, there will be troubled times. You didn’t think it would be smooth sailing once you flipped the table at your desk job, did you?
Yes, there are practical things to consider when you leave your office. Like, how much do you have in savings? How will you eat? Where will you sleep (if you’re moving to L.A.)? But those are logistics that are manageable to figure out.
What might not be as manageable? The uncertainty of it all. You just don’t know if your screenplay will sell, get optioned, or even garner you an agent. The uncertainty of a screenwriting career – well, any career in Hollywood for that matter – is enough to send someone packing back to whence they came. But you quit your job for nothing. Which is why the focus is the cure for your uncertainty. Focus is what will put your butt in the chair every morning or afternoon – or whenever you choose to write – and type out those pages. An intense focus on the work will help dim the glare of uncertainty.
Of course, focus is nothing without self-control. Self-control is what separates the people who walk the talk or just talk the walk. Will you succumb to the easiness of watching Netflix all night or will you commit to banging out those 10 pages a day instead? Failing to control your actions sets you up for failure in completing your goal. You might not be able to ascertain the future of your script, but how will anyone ever get the chance to read it if you don’t complete it? Setting a daily routine of working will help you remain in control of your writing habits. Maybe it’s waking up early and getting those pages done first thing, or maybe it’s working intermittently throughout the day. Whatever floats your boat. But committing to your process wholeheartedly, embodying the self-control to do so, will make it easier for you to focus on your work — which is the whole point anyway.
As you’re writing and toiling, it’s also important to give yourself permission to suck. Because your writing will suck. And some days will be rougher than others, and that’s all okay. It’s part of the writing process; it’s part of being an artist. To fail, to learn, to be humble. What’s most important is to not let those bad days stop you from pursuing what you set out to do. What you’re meant to do. There will be tough moments that can be so overwhelming that you will wonder if it’s worth it. If you’ve got what it takes; if you’re really meant to be a writer.
Let yourself off the hook. Forgive yourself for having an off day, and understand that we’re all entitled to them. One bad day, even a couple of days, weeks, or even months, doesn’t mean you’re not capable of accomplishing your goals. Learn from your mistakes, and move forward. See each setback as a lesson. Anything worth achieving is bound to encounter some resistance and a couple of hiccups. It’s in these moments when we decide whether the thing we so desperately want is worth fighting for. If it were easy, well, then your Uncle Larry with his “I have a great idea for a movie” would be an Oscar-winning producer by now.
Don’t expect perfection, but instead expect to be accountable. When you show up and do the work – when you hold yourself accountable for what you set out to do – then there’s really nothing more you can or ought to expect from yourself. Avoid second-guessing your decisions. If there’s something that needs to be fixed or altered, seek solutions. Reach out to a trusted colleague or mentor. Focus – there’s that word, again – on what you can do rather than what you cannot or didn’t do. Tap into your creative genius, trust what comes forth, and let it go. Be excited about your work and let that feeling propel you forward, especially during those trying times.
Your screenwriting career, much like Hollywood, will ebb and flow. Knowing when to take advantage as opportunity strikes, and understanding when you’re in control of a situation – like when you’re riding that wave — is just as important when you need to know to let go, relinquish autonomy, and let things work out on their own. Life generally has a way of working out the way it should when you loosen your grip, hold your vision, and act from a place of intention rather than forced action.
Above all, believe in yourself. Believe that you are meant to be a screenwriter. Believe that your words are meant to be read and shared with an audience on a screen. Because if you don’t believe in your talent and that you have what it takes to turn your passion into a career, who else will?
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
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