Are You a Professional?

Do you have an amateur’s point of view or a professional’s? One way to tell: “How do you react to notes?”

A TV producer-director friend, who’s directed hundreds and hundreds of hours of television, comes across a lot of writers. A lot of beginning writers. A lot of intermediate writers. A lot of professionals. He recently told me he no longer reads scripts by non-pros. “If they’re not professional, all they want is praise.” He stopped wasting his time.

There’s always that straw that knocks the camel into the dung heap. For my buddy, this was it…

“I read the script by this guy. It was terrible. But it had a good idea. So when I met with him, I told him he had to throw the whole thing out and start over, but the core idea was worth the effort. He said, ‘Yeah, I know that. But would you show it to your agent?’ I told him again that it was not good, needed total rewriting, and wasn’t ready. He said, ‘I know, I know. But would you show it to your agent?’ I told him a third time and he asked me to show it to my agent.”

As the British would say, that tore it. End of that particular wannabe’s relationship with someone who could help him.

If all you want is praise, go hang out with your grandparents. If you want to get into the movie and television business, get ready for notes. All you’re ever going to get is notes. Criticism piled on more criticism with spicy criticism sauce poured on top. Plus… the lack of praise makes you feel bad. Get over it. I did.

All I ever want anyone to say about my writing is, “I weep at your genius.” I’m still waiting.

John Lloyd Miller, who’s a helluva filmmaker, says this and I agree, “Every note is an opportunity for you to improve your work.” You need to buy into that mantra, wholeheartedly. When someone takes time to give you notes, take the time to actually listen, nod attentively and appreciatively, write down every single painful thing they say, and pay for the lunch.

If you don’t want notes, can’t welcome notes, can’t smile when you get punched in the gut, find something other than writing to occupy your time because you don’t want to be a writer.

Not a better one anyway. Certainly not a professional.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing Process, Criticism, Good Writing

4 responses to “Are You a Professional?

  1. Amen! I speak five foreign languages to various degrees of proficiency. Whenever someone corrects me, I am grateful they took the time to help me improve. That attitude is how I learned five languages.
    There are over 3,000 words in the Oxford English dictionary invented by Shakespeare. I didn’t invent a single one. I say I’m like a flower arranger, sorting through words and phrases trying to create an effect. I don’t own those words, so my ego isn’t invested in the work. You got an idea of how I can arrange them more effectively? Please share! Let’s have fun!

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Brad! Were the people who corrected your mistakes American? I’ve found that Americans won’t ever correct someone making a mistake in English, but it’s the only way to improve. I assume this is because Americans aren’t used to hearing anything but English. Kinda like making mistakes in writing, I always welcome someone helping me with hash I make of French…

      • The people who corrected me were native speakers. A French pilgrim on the Camino in Spain once told me I spoke French like a Spanish Basque. We both laughed about it.

      • yourscreenplaysucks

        The best language compliment I got, while speaking French, was that a Frenchman wondered if I were Dutch.

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