3 Things to Watch for so YOU Aren’t the Biggest Obstacle to Your Success

Carole Kirschner Are You Your Biggest Obstacle .jpg

Being a professional writer in Hollywood is not easy. There are countless obstacles on the road to success: finding representation, turning in a rewrite by a seemingly impossible deadline, battling LA traffic to make it to your next meeting on time! But did you ever consider the biggest obstacle standing in the way of your dreams may be you? I’m talking about self-sabotage, that unconscious destructive behavior that fills your mind with critical self-doubt, undermines your confidence, and can wreak havoc on your writing career.

Here are some destructive behaviors all screenwriters need to look out for and tips on how to nip them in the bud:

1. I’ll finish my screenplay…tomorrow.

Writers can be master procrastinators. Have you ever found yourself saying, “I don’t feel inspired right now” or “I could finish this draft, or I could deep dive my ex’s Instagram account for the next two hours.” Instead of using your valuable time and energy to write, you are using it to come up with ways to avoid doing the work. This is a sure fire way to end up worn out with nothing to show for it. Get yourself out of the procrastination rut by finding someone to help you set goals and stick to them. Create an accountability system with a fellow writer. Having to report your progress to someone else, especially someone who is striving towards their goals alongside you, can sometimes be all the motivation you need to keep your head down and get the work done. Looking for more inspiration? Check out my posts on ‘How to Stay on Track with your Writing Goals’ and ‘4 Ways to Break Through Writers Block’.

2. I’m a talented writer…but I’ll never be worthy of success.

Too many writers I meet have the talent to be successful but can’t get past that inner critic telling them they are a fraud. That feeling of self-doubt and lack of ability despite evidence that you are skilled and successful is known as “Imposter Syndrome” and left unchecked it can leave you constantly searching for proof that you are doomed for failure: a show pops up on Netflix that seems similar to the show you’re about to pitch to a major network, you now feel like pitching it is a waste of time. You get a note in a writers group that would mean a huge rewrite to your screenplay, so you stop sharing your work altogether. I know a number of successful writers who secretly harbor the “imposter syndrome," but they’ve figured out how to ignore those thoughts. So push past feeling like a fraud and see your negative thoughts for what they are, fears. Not reality. Whether its affirmations, meditation, or journaling out your negative feelings, do what you need to do to take away that inner critic’s power over you. Only you can decide to stop diminishing yourself.

3. I’m so busy… I don’t have time for my writing or… myself.

Life, especially in Los Angeles, can get filled with obligations fast. Often obligations that don’t serve us: We say yes to parties we don’t want to go to, coffee runs that don’t fall under our job description, and dinner with friends that we can’t afford. Don’t get me wrong, friends and family are important, but when you put everything and everyone before your own needs there aren’t many emotional or physical resources left to devote to your career. Stop people-pleasing and do what’s necessary to protect your most valuable asset: you. Set boundaries with people in your life. If confrontation scares you, start with small actions, like turning your phone off for an hour while you write, and move up to larger ones, like canceling plans with friends when you have to meet a deadline. Those that truly support you and your ambitions will understand. Trying to apply this principle to your day job? Read my post on ‘Secrets to Balancing Your Screenwriting Tips with your Day Job’.

What are your favorite ways of overcoming self-sabotage? Let me know @CaroleKirsch!

6 Ways to Turn Your ‘General Meeting’ into a Job Opportunity

Carole Kirschner General Meeting Tips.jpg

While pitch meetings and staffing meetings can be some of the most exciting of your up-and-coming screenwriting career, there's a different kind of meeting you'll encounter far more often: the "general meeting." The "general meeting" (or "general") is an informal meeting between you and an executive or producer when they've liked a script you've written and want to meet you generally, they don’t have anything specific in mind for you. They just want to find out who you areand be sure you’re not a serial killer. Many writers write these off as ‘just a general’, but that can be a huge mistake. In fact, the smartest writers turn these benign ‘meet and greets’ into soft pitch meetings and effective career builders. Here’s how:

1. Know Who You’re Meeting

Do your research. I've heard horror stories of writers who bad mouth a movie or TV show in a general only to learn that the exec they're meeting with oversaw that project. You also don't want to squander a big opportunity because you don't know if you're speaking with a decision maker. Get up to speed on their taste, what they’ve done in the past and what they currently have in development. Put in the effort. This is a concrete way you may be able to turn your “general” into a “specific”.

2. It’s All About Connection

Remember, if you're sitting in that room, it means they already like your material. Now is the time to connect with them on a deeper level. Rather than focusing on being liked, find a personal connection with your meeting partner. But, generals are like speed dating -- you’ll click with some and not with others, and that's okay. It’s chemistry. Like any speed date, the match will only be successful if you go in with authenticity, so be yourself, (as Oscar Wilde said, everyone else is taken)and not what you think they are looking for. If you're an introvert (like so many writers I work with), check out my post on how to network successfully even if you're an introvert.

3. Have a Killer Personal Logline

Your Personal Logline is your brief, compelling story in a few short sentences that explains who you are, what you write, and what makes you different than other people writing in that same space. How are you uniquely suited to the brand of the company you're meeting with? Be prepared to talk about who you are, what you want to do, and where you are going next. Know what you want to say, practice it on friends beforehand, and be confident,concise and conversational.

4. So What Else Are you Working on?

This question comes up in every general. Just like with your Personal Logline, have the loglines of other projects you're working on rehearsed and ready to go so you can give the exec you're meeting with a short, engaging peek into your projects. If you nail this, it can lead to being invited back for an official pitch meeting. And that is the magic of general meetings: they can lead to more if you know how to navigate them. But read the room; pitching them without being asked may feel too forced.

5. Manage your Expectations

They may bring up a project they have in development that could be a good fit for you. This is exciting, but it’s important to manage your expectations. Talk of a potential project in a general is not a job offer, more often than not it’s an opportunity to pitch for that job. Before you dive into competing for it, find out more about it. Ask your reps, do your research, figure out if it is worth your time and energy.

6. Don’t Drop the Details!

This is a big one. Make notes after each meeting. Write down who you met with, anything personal you connected over, and the projects they have coming up. You may think you’ll remember it all, but after months of going on generals, you’ll be happy you have a reference point. Sometimes a company will have staffing needs on a project you're excited about a year -- or more -- after you've met with them. It's these times that you will be thanking the writing gods that you have notes about that long-past meeting. It also never hurts to send a thank you email to the executive and follow up on any material they’ve sent in a timely manner. Also, keep your reps in the loop if you’ve had a fantastic meeting or love a project you discussed.

What's your favorite trick for nailing general meetings? Let me know @CaroleKirsch!

How to Network Painlessly Even If You’re an Introvert

How to Network Painlessly Even If You’re an Introvert

The business side of Show Business can be tough for writers, because I know many of you are introverts. But networking is a necessity if you want to have a successful career.

Read More

How to Create a Killer Personal Pitch That Will Help You Sell Your Project

How to Create a Killer Personal Pitch That Will Help You Sell Your Project

Even before you start pitching your project, the buyer is deciding if they want to be in business with you. Even though writers  hate to hear this, you have to sell yourself before you can sell your project.

Read More

4 Ways to Start a Script that a Reader Can’t Put Down

4 Ways to Start a Script that a Reader Can’t Put Down

It’s heartbreaking, but it’s true: many decision makers (agents, producers, and executives) will decide if a writer is good or a project is compelling after reading only the first ten pages of a script. And in TV, it could be as little as the first threepages. This is why the beginning of your script is so important: its life or death often depends on its first few pages. 

Read More

How to Write Better Dialogue

How to Write Better Dialogue

Writing great dialogue is what makes your story come to life. Some of the most beloved writers are revered for their masterful dialogue, like Nora Ephron and her iconic character banter in WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, or Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue style in THE WEST WING and THE SOCIAL NETWORK.  

Read More

5 Common Mistakes First-Time Indie Filmmakers Make

5 Common Mistakes First-Time Indie Filmmakers Make

Finally producing your first movie is very exciting. You’ve nailed the script (which can take years), you’ve secured financing, and you’re ready to finally (finally!) shoot and sell it. You’ve crossed many difficult hurdles to make it this far. So why do so many first-time filmmakers fail? Read my tips below to avoid common first-time filmmaking mistakes that will help set you up for success. 

Read More

It's Never Too Late to Have a Screenwriting Career

It's Never Too Late to Have a Screenwriting Career

Want to be a screenwriter but you’re not 22? Don’t panic. Smart showrunners and decision makers are often looking for grownups and will open the door for someone with talent, enthusiasm, and great personal stories. Your work needs to be contemporary, but your life experience can make your writing richer and lend authenticity in meetings and pitches.  

Read More

What Successful Screenwriters Know About Using Social Media

What Successful Screenwriters Know About Using Social Media

If you’re hoping to build momentum in your writing career, social media can work in your favor. But it can also be a double-edged sword. Read on for the good, the bad, and how to do it right. 

Read More

4 Classic Scripts that Deliver on their Promise

4 Classic Scripts that Deliver on their Promise

Every script makes a promise, and it’s inherent in its genre. If you’re writing a comedy script, it must be funny. If you’re writing horror, your script must be scary. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many writers fail to execute the promise of their genre on the page.

Read More