This is probably the most popular question I have received, alongside how to get an agent. While the answer to the second question, about the agent, involves writing beautifully, the answer to the one about whether you can write or not is not as easy to answer.
First, if anyone tells you they do have an answer to this question, they are wrong. No one can tell anyone if they can write a great script or not.
Now Stephen King or someone might be able to say if someone can write a book or not, that there are bad writers somewhere. Yet books are not scripts.
So can you write a great script?
Is this the same question as can you get paid from writing scripts?
Definitely you can avoid writing great scripts and get paid— we already know that. Haven’t you started the first episode of something on Amazon or Netflix recently and turned it off immediately? Of course, you can get paid for writing scripts.
All you need is education and ambition—probably only ambition. If you want to get paid for writing scripts bad enough, well, it will happen. I hope for some of you that’s good news. And if getting paid to write scripts will make you happy, do it.
But can you be good at writing scripts? Can you do this? Do you have the chops to write a great script?
The wonderful answer is no one knows. No one can tell you if you can or will write a great script.
I used to think I knew.
Before I started teaching and helping others with their writing, I believed I could pick out the people who could make it and be successful. (Now I know anyone can be successful—see above). But I used to believe I could also see who could write a great script, or more importantly, who will write a great script.
Students would submit work and I would say to myself, this person will never make it. And we would discuss their work, their classmates would give them notes, I would say a thing or two and then two weeks later the work would change, but I would still stay, no, never, this person will never make it. They cannot write great.
And then a month would go by, they would try something and like something miraculous, they were a different writer. Like you could not tell the same writer wrote the same work a month later! I was shocked. And humbled. I could not predict greatness in a writer. I could not predict how they could change.
Now how does a writer discover greatness? How will you know if you can write a masterpiece?
I don’t know. I know that you still need to want to do what you want to do. If you don’t want to believe that you could write a story to change the world, no one will be able to help you. No one can make you believe in yourself in the way that so many successful writers believe in themselves, regardless if they write something great or not.
Will belief in yourself and ambition get you to greatness in writing? I think everyone already might have this when they ask the question of whether you will make it. You already believe in yourself. You wrote a script. You have ambition. You rewrote your script. You went to school. You joined a writing group. You attended a professional event.
But what is missing? What do I look for in myself when I want to keep going? What does the writer need beyond professional ambition?
It might be courage. It might the courage to take more notes when you can’t stomach more feedback. It might be the courage to type another draft completely from scratch. It might the courage to write about the most painful feelings you’ve ever had. It might be the courage to write what you want to write and not what you’ve been told to write by others. It might be the courage to sacrifice your sleep and get up in the morning or write at the end of the day.
What would you call the power of the spirit and the heart you need to face down the challenges of your story, when the intuition inside tells you it’s good, but not great, it’s professional, but not real, it’s new, but not different? Will I be brave enough to stick to my guns and outlast my fatigue?
Will I have the courage to write the best I can with no professional reward?
I believe this freedom does allow us to write great stories for our scripts. Maybe we will get a job, too.
Courage does have a winning record.
By: Gordy Hoffman
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