I grabbed the envelope and tore it open without much enthusiasm. Why would I be excited? I was sure it was another rejection. Eighty-two producers and agents had already said “no” to my original screenplays.
I began to read the letter, expecting the same polite – but negative – response. Only this time, it wasn’t a flat-out rejection. It was a nice letter from a producer who said that he enjoyed my script … and asked me to give him a call.
I’ll be honest. When I read that letter, the cash register bells started ringing in my ears. I was going to be rich! I couldn’t wait to hear how much he was going to offer me. And when I called him, I was almost ready to pass out from excitement. Until, that is, he explained that despite his love of the script, he would have to pass.
I was crushed. I thought to myself, “How could I have ever expected to be successful at writing movies?” But then … I caught myself. And I did something that you too should do if you feel ready to give up on your dream: I forced myself to remember the stories of other people who had started out in the same “hole” I was in, but persevered … and became wildly successful.
I thought about screenwriters like David K., for example, who grew up in South Florida just like I did. With no entertainment industry connections, he began writing and knocking on Hollywood’s door. It wasn’t an easy road. At one time, he was so poor that he would go to the mall to write, just so he could escape the suffocating heat of his un-air-conditioned apartment. But his determination paid off. Today, David K. is an executive producer on a major network television program and has a seven-figure development deal with a major studio.
By reminding myself of stories like David. K.’s, I was able to renew my determination. I regrouped, called that producer again, and asked him to read one of my other scripts. He agreed to do it – but then he passed on that one too. In fact, he ended up reading six of my full-length feature screenplays … and never bought one.
But all that rejection didn’t slow me down. And it’s not the end of my story. Despite the disappointment, I knew that other guys just like me had made it. And, besides, a real live producer with actual movie credits liked my work. This gave me the impetus to keep pushing forward. And, eventually, I succeeded.
Along the way, I learned a lot about what it takes to achieve any “unachievable” dream. Here are the first two steps …
Step One: Dispel Any Doubts.
One of the biggest threats to the accomplishment of a challenging goal is self-doubt. But you can use my “Doubt Assassin” technique to keep it from obstructing your path. You do this by mentally preparing yourself with facts that you can attack your doubts with when they appear.
Let’s take the example of a man who wants to become a multimillionaire but has no college education, contacts, or capital. There are many men and women who started out with nothing and went on to become very wealthy. It’s not hard to find them on the Internet. Just use any major search engine like Google or Yahoo and put in key phrases like, “rags to riches stories.” Or pick up one of the many books on success – like Rags to Riches: Motivating Stories of How Ordinary People Achieved Extraordinary Wealth. (Naturally, you should be looking for stories about people who have succeeded in the same field you are involved in.)
Then, any time doubts appear, remind yourself of all these ordinary people who weren’t geniuses or supernaturally talented, yet achieved the very goal you want to accomplish. Your doubts will quickly vaporize as you realize that if they could do it … so can you.
Step Two: Dig In for the Long Haul
Let’s face it. Anything worth accomplishing is going to take time … and persistence. There is no way to get around this. Yes, there are people who win the lottery or who otherwise fall into great success or wealth. They are the rare exceptions. The one common denominator you will find among most successful people is that they continually plowed forward … no matter how dismal the odds seemed … no matter how much others scoffed.
And this trait of endurance applies not only to people you read about but also to many successful people who didn’t do something so astounding that they ended up in the history books. The point is that if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to be prepared to go the distance … no matter how hard it seems or how long it takes.
I began sending out my screenplays 12 years ago. It was five years before I received a bona fide offer from a producer (not the same one I told you about earlier) to option one of my scripts. When I took that option, I was once again sure that I was on my way. Well, it wasn’t that easy. It was another two years before I signed with a legitimate WGA signatory agency. And it wasn’t until I had been writing for 10 years that I finally had a film produced.
Now, perhaps it would’ve been easier to get my career going if I’d lived in LA, had a formal education in screenwriting, or had some contacts in the industry. But I had none of those things. Nobody believed that I could write a screenplay that would become a real film … not even my family.
The reason I’m telling you my story is not to impress with you with my intestinal fortitude. It’s to make you realize that it is possible to achieve your dreams. The journey may be hard, exhausting, and frustrating … but you can accomplish practically anything if you persevere.
Listen, there are more than 100,000 screenplays registered by the WGA every year. Of those authors who registered their screenplays along with mine 12 years ago, how many do you think ever had a multimillion-dollar-budget movie made? Maybe a handful, at best. And how many do you think had as much talent as me? I’d wager thousands. But they never made it. And I did.
“We can do anything we want if we stick to it long enough.”– Helen Keller