By Lee Hamilton.
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Screenwriting is difficult! Whether you’re working your way through your latest spec script or are just starting your first, there’s undoubtedly going to be moments when you start to wonder just why you’re doing it.
The craft can take a long time to master and it’s a really hard industry to break into, and that’s before you factor in the impact of the last two years.
But – don’t despair. Hollywood is hungrier than ever for new stories. So, here are 10 good reasons to keep you motivated as you follow your dream, and remind you why writing for the movies is an awesome career choice. With hard work, it can absolutely be yours!
For a small number of people, this is the first reason why they want to become a screenwriter, but although it’s listed as number one here, it shouldn’t be. This can’t be stressed enough: screenwriting isn’t a fast way to make millions of dollars! Learning and mastering the craft is one thing, building a network of industry professionals is another, then on top of that, the process of filmmaking itself can take years, meaning that writing a spec script isn’t the get-rich-quick scheme that many mistake it for.
“WE DON’T MAKE MOVIES TO MAKE MONEY, WE MAKE MONEY TO MAKE MORE MOVIES.” Walt Disney
But! Once you’ve started on your screenwriting career, and built up a good reputation for yourself, then let’s face it, yes, screenwriting can indeed be a lucrative career. According to the WGA, the average yearly earnings for working American screenwriters is $106,340 which does well to reflect the amount of time, effort, and skill involved in the profession.
You get to work with amazing people.
Screenwriting can sometimes feel like the loneliest job in the world, but in reality, a writer is a (very important) cog in a much larger machine. Making a film is a group effort, and you get to be part of that.
“FILMMAKING IS THE ULTIMATE TEAM SPORT.” Michael Keaton
Many writers start off doing alternative work in the industry, not necessarily in a writing role, and it’s through these connections that they eventually get their big break as well as gaining invaluable knowledge from their peers.
You get to build your tribe.
“I LIKE TO WORK WITH THE SAME PEOPLE WHEN I CAN, AND YOU WANT TO GET PEOPLE WITH THE SAME INTERESTS THAT YOU HAVE, AND THE SAME AESTHETIC.” Spike Lee
Not only can you work with other successful creatives, but you can also build your team of like-minded collaborators. I use the word “collaborators,” but it’s more like life-long friendships with people who get you, are as passionate about your scripts as you are, and want to share their enthusiasm and filmmaking skills with you.
You get to express yourself.
“LET WRITING BE A FORM OF THERAPY FOR YOURSELF AND WATCHING YOUR WORK WILL BECOME A FORM OF THERAPY FOR OTHERS.” Tony Gilroy
Writing is like free therapy. If there’s a story itching to get out of you, then you shouldn’t keep it cooped up! Writing is a fantastic means of self-expression, exploring your emotions, viewing things from a different perspective, and writing down all the things you want to say out loud, but can’t. Countless studies are confirming the health benefits of creative writing, so why not make a career based on it!
You can change lives.
Creative writing doesn’t just benefit you; it can benefit anyone who is touched by your story as well. As much as you’ve been inspired by your favorite movies, there are countless people out there waiting to be equally inspired by you.
“I THINK NEW WRITERS ARE TOO WORRIED IT HAS ALL BEEN SAID BEFORE. SURE IT HAS, BUT NOT BY YOU.” Asha Dornfest
Being able to manipulate the audience, control their emotions, and take them on a roller coaster ride, is as fun as it sounds, and you get to do that as your day job!
Your imagination is the limit.
“FILMMAKING IS THE CHANCE TO LIVE MANY LIFETIMES.” Robert Altman
Having a job that allows your imagination to run riot has got to be one of the most exciting prospects for any writer, with few other occupations out there that allow you to do this. Creating characters that viewers will fall in love with, building new and exciting worlds, or developing memorable stories with the potential to continue is a major appeal for many a screenwriter.
You can work from home.
Unlike writing for television, where nine times out of ten you need to live in one of the main film hub cities, such as LA, NY, or London, you can write a feature spec script anywhere.
Whether it’s in the comfort of your own home, a designated office area, or the local café (or bar). Once you’re an established writer, you don’t need to limit your writing time to the commute home or the one hour you’re able to grab after putting the kids to bed. Yes, you’ll have deadlines, but you’ll also have lots of flexibility in when and where you work.
You’ll be one of the few.
Not everyone makes it. Very few can resist the rejection that inevitably comes on the path to becoming successful. Becoming a paid writer is a huge achievement so getting there is all the sweeter.
“SCREENWRITING IS THE MOST PRIZED OF ALL THE CINEMATIC ARTS. ACTUALLY, IT ISN’T, BUT IT SHOULD BE.” Hugh Laurie
If you’re able to make a living from screenwriting, you’ll be one of those writers who didn’t give up, and that’s something to be extremely proud of.
You’ll have achieved your dreams.
Regret is a sour thing, so the big question is, “Could you forgive yourself for giving up on your dream?”
“I GREW UP BELIEVING, AND CONTINUE TO BELIEVE, THAT I AM A SCREW-UP, THAT GROWING UP WITH MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS, I HAD NOTHING TO OFFER IN ANY CONVERSATION. BUT WHEN I STARTED WRITING, SUDDENLY THERE WAS SOMETHING THAT I BROUGHT TO THE PARTY THAT WAS AT A HIGH-ENOUGH LEVEL.” Aaron Sorkin
Regardless of whether you become a millionaire screenwriter or never make a single penny, becoming a screenwriter will be the social proof that you actively chased and realized your dream.
Because it’s fun.
Last, but not least! You should write screenplays because you love them. The thrill of putting your beloved characters into peril, the joy of evoking terror in the reader, and the sense of accomplishment you feel when typing FADE OUT: are a few of many different reasons to love screenwriting.
“I’M VERY LUCKY. I ACTUALLY LIKE SCREENWRITING. I RARELY FEEL A SENSE OF DOOM GOING TO MY DESK.” Simon Beufoy
Hopefully, this has been something to energize you and jog your memory as to why you started to write screenplays in the first place. Or if you are new to screenwriting, we hope it has given you the encouragement to open your laptop and start typing away
And remember – Keep Writing, Keep Improving, and Get Involved!
Lee Hamilton is a script reader, developer, and author. Lee was one of the original readers to join Shore Scripts and has since moved into education and development, penning numerous articles, workbooks, and writing courses.