If someone had asked me what I thought would be some of the biggest challenges I would face before I started to write scripts, I would probably have said things like discipline, finding ideas, the dreaded ‘writer’s block’ etc.
However, even though I’m only at the start of what I hope will be a career in filmmaking, perhaps the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is the fact that writing can be quite a solitary career.
This is obviously because, unless you happen to be collaborating with other writers, you will, clearly, be writing on your own. This is even more of a challenge if you happen to be self employed, which I have been since I started my business, 9am Films, in December 2014.
Going into all of this I was told that screenwriting can be a lonely, challenging experience, but hearing something is very different from living it. I think what has made it worse is going from studying Media Production at university, where there was such an emphasis on collaboration, to working by myself.
It’s no wonder that writers are so often depicted in fiction as being bitter and angry, and more often that not even nursing a serious drink problem. It’s hardly an occupation that screams social interaction, which is strange, considering that art, at its best, is a commentary on real life issues. It is, of course, hard to do that if you’re not mixing with actual human beings.
The problem with writing is that, as I said before, it’s by nature often a solitary profession. However, I don’t want this post to read like one long moan. I appreciate how blessed I am to be able to do something that I love, in writing and making films. On top of that, I’ve also been blessed by being able to start my own business, especially in being led to The Prince’s Trust.
Working on your own requires initiative, as you would expect when you’re effectively your own boss. You won’t be aware of just how easy it is to bounce ideas off other people, and to just have that drive to work, when you’re sat in front of a computer by yourself.
However, it doesn’t mean that a career in writing will inevitably end up as one long descent into loneliness and alcohol fueled madness. It is possible to write and still remain a sane (and sociable) person. The following is a short list of steps that I’ve found helpful in making my writing about more than just myself and my computer.
- Set a goal in mind: One script I’m currently working on is for submission to the BBC Writersroom. There are also lots of other sources where writers of all levels of experience can submit work, as well as many competitions. Of course, we should always be careful to do our research (especially for those that charge for submissions), but knowing what you’re going to do with the script once the final draft is complete will help you feel that, at some point at least, someone else will see it.
- Involve other people: This made sound like a particularly stupid thing to do, as we naturally want to protect our ideas from being stolen. However, this could be as simple as tweeting that you’re working on a new script, or even just telling people that you’re working on something. It can be very encouraging to have people ask how a script is going, and also a great incentive to keep working in case anyone asks!
- Network: The internet is a great resource for getting in touch with other writers and filmmakers. If you have previous connections from, for example, a university course, then great. However, don’t worry if you don’t. There are a number of websites that allow you to both connect with other people and share your work, such as IdeasTap, and are well worth investigating.
- Write in a public place: Again, if you are worried about prying eyes, that’s understandable. However, I’m not suggesting you walk into Starbucks and announce “I am a writer!”, find a seat, then start tapping away loudly on your laptop. Though, if you think that might help get the ideas flowing, go ahead. (You might find one or two seats suddenly become available next to you as soon as you sit down, however. I’m not speaking from personal experience, by the way.) What I am suggesting is if you’re sat in your room/office/study writing all by yourself, a change of scene every so often could do the world of good for you and your work. At the very least, you’ll get some fresh air and find out that yes, there is a world outside of your computer.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to add any comments below.