After reading Jason Arnopp’s excellent lottery blog post on Tuesday (and vaguely remembering we had a discussion about that in the pub years ago – pretty certain I was arguing the lottery side in relation to a specific element of writing, but can’t remember why) I’ve been thinking about the nature of luck as it relates to scriptwriting, how much sway you have over that luck and what it takes to be successful.
In particular I’ve been thinking about my writing friends who have achieved or are achieving success versus those who haven’t … and it all boils down to one simple rule.
It’s not really a secret. Implementing it is harder than learning it; but for those of you who complain about not getting the breaks or think there’s some secret club you have to belong to, this is it:
Continuously do everything which might lead to achieving your goal.
The two key words in that sentence are CONTINUOUSLY and EVERYTHING. The best way to fail is to stop trying. The second best way is to limit your options to one method.
I know it’s an old analogy, but it’s my favourite and I love using it: selling a script is like buying an ice cream.
People who fancy an ice cream fall into three categories (ignoring the people who see it on a menu and buy one on a whim – because it messes up the rest of this post and I like to ignore anything which contradicts my opinions):
1) People who fancy an ice cream, but do nothing useful about it.
These people talk a lot about wanting ice cream, they draw pictures of the ice cream they want, they may even glance out the window in the vain hope an ice cream van is passing; but ultimately they never leave the house and waste hours carping on about how they have no luck.
2) People who fancy an ice cream and attempt to get one with a lottery mentality.
These people leave the house in search of an ice cream. They head for the beach because that’s where they think the ice cream vans are likely to be. They’re happy people who assume if they hang around the beach long enough, eventually they’ll find an ice cream van … but set themselves a time limit, give up and go home when it gets dark.
They may get lucky and find an ice cream van. They may not. They are trying, but since they’ve already decided to give up at some point … they’re prepared to fail. If their town doesn’t have a beach … well, they tried their best and are content to just have jelly instead.
I have no idea what jelly symbolises in this rambling analogy.
3) People who will stop at nothing to get an ice cream.
These people do their research before they leave the house. Do ice cream vans actually hang out at the beach or somewhere else? Does the weather effect where and when they appear? Is there an ice cream van dispatcher you can ring and badger for information. What about people who’ve already got an ice cream – where did they get it from? Is there anything to be learnt from them?
When they do leave the house (armed with maps and frequency charts of ice cream van spotting, possibly in the company of a guy they met on Twitter who recently bought an ice cream) they are determined:
THEY WILL NOT RETURN HOME UNTIL THEY’VE FOUND AN ICE CREAM.
Nothing can be allowed to stop them and if they have to stay out 24 hours a day for weeks, they WILL find an ice cream. Because that’s what they want.
I’ve said it before and so has everyone else; but it’s worth repeating: success comes to the persistent.
Yes, you need some talent; but crucially, you don’t have to be the most talented writer in the history of the world, you merely need to be slightly better than the herd, have the desire to try routes others scorn and the determination to never give up.