By: Carl T. Rogers
Mastering the craft of screenwriting requires hard work. There’s a ton of trial and error, and you’re often working alone with little to show for your efforts—but we keep going since we believe in the vision in our minds!
Do you know what this reminds me of? Blacksmiths.
Becoming a consummate visual storyteller is a lot like becoming a peerless blacksmith. Smiths have crafted metal for millennia, so we as storytellers can learn a lot from the areas in which we’re similar. Think about it.
- In ancient times, blacksmiths often had to dig up and smelt their own ore. This is like how a screenwriter mines their everyday lives and even their subconscious for ideas, inspiration, and characters.
- Just like blacksmiths use a variety of tools, screenwriters utilize an arsenal of literary techniques to tell stories: simile, metaphor, allegory, symbolism, juxtaposition, and even visual poetry.
- Blacksmiths often train for years under more experienced craftsmen. While not all screenwriters have had personal teachers, most of us gleaned lessons from the myriad of movies and shows we’ve watched which were created by the writers we admire.
- Blacksmiths come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. Some do things old school (like outlining a feature using index cards and Sharpie) while others prefer to use modern technology (like outlining your series in a digital whiteboard).
Regardless of how you started or who you learned from, it still takes years of practice to truly get good at this mysterious craft we call screenwriting. That’s normal! So, if you feel like you’re trying to get better and it’s taking a long time, know that other crafts and art forms are the same: it takes time to become truly great.
The most striking similarity to me, however, is just how hard blacksmiths work on each piece. The writing process is your forge. You’ve got to spend hours and hours hammering away, line by line, word by word. Every keystroke is a hammer blow!
You toil at the computer, meticulously rewriting so you can burn away the dross and beat the impurities out of your pages until you form the heart of the story in its burnished glory!
It’s hard work. You might get wrist or neck cramps instead of burns and rough calluses, but it’s tough nonetheless.
As you write more screenplays, your journey as a visual storyteller grows from your thinking of your work as the forge to realizing your career itself is a forge, and each challenge is a veritable crucible for your career.
All these parallels are the reasons I like to think of myself—and those I teach—as Scriptsmiths.