What are the reasons you write? How did you become a writer? Why do you continue to write?
My first memory of writing was an assignment by my second grade teacher. She asked us to write a story. I remember the strange and wonderful feeling of being able to make anything up. Later, I recognized that sensation was my imagination. After that, and to this day, my mind continues to create stories. I still don’t know where it comes from within me, and I still experience a feeling of delight when I discover another idea for a beautiful story.
Writing Scripts for Money
Early in my adult life, I wanted to see how I could use my writing, my gift for making up original stories, to earn a living. How could writing become a career for me? Back in the 90’s, I read stories about screenwriters who sold spec scripts—-scripts they wrote on their own without being paid in advance—for several million dollars. Like so many others, I believed I could do that. I wanted to write a movie and get paid a lot of money and win an Oscar.
Then I wrote a movie about a man who is unable to read the suicide note his wife had left him. Looking back, I guess I forgot about writing a screenplay to sell for millions and wrote for another reason. The reasons to write that script were not clear to me that summer. I simply wrote a script because I thought it was an interesting script. And I kept writing the script because I loved creating the story.
This script was made into a movie. I didn’t become rich, but when I saw the scenes on the screen that I wrote, and heard the silence and the laughter in the audience, I became aware of powerful reasons to write—–to connect to an audience, to write for other people.
Writing for the Audience
If our writing connects to an audience, does that guarantee professional success?
Let’s say I sit down to write something for today’s marketplace, the market which apparently knows what the audience wants. Perhaps I need to consider a television pilot over a screenplay. What genres are popular? Who is this audience I need to create stories for?
Don’t we have to be aware of what will sell if we want to develop a career?
Maybe the reasons you write a script have nothing to do what’s in high demand. Will your stories still work for an audience?
Changing the Reasons You Write
It’s important to know why you write. Do you remember why you started to write stories? What did it feel like? Often times, writers have forgotten why it’s important for themselves to write. We get caught up in what will professionally advance us. We want a career, an income, a reputation, and respect. And we do not remember why we write at all.
Make writing about you. Write a story which expresses what you feel about your station in life. You have a voice. This is the original voice behind everything you ever wrote, the voice behind the kid in second grade who wrote his first story, who knew nothing about money or audiences. He created a story simply to express himself.
These are the reasons to write scripts. Because they are of interest to us. When we communicate what brings to delight to ourselves, our work sustains us. This is the secret. The fact is what you care about will be the marketplace. Your best writing will set the industry. What matters to you will define what sells. Do not justify your script in any other terms than what moves your heart.
When we write to create, with no expectation, simply to be honest and honor our passions, everything falls into place, and that place is your profession and the people who will love what you write.
Know the reasons you write stories, embrace their importance, and trust, with patience, your original impulse to write is your best.