Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Nothing to Lose

WANNABE: I just missed that bus.

GONNA-BE: That wasn't your bus.

WANNABE: But, I missed it.

GONNA-BE: It's not going your way.

WANNABE: It didn't even stop.

GONNA-BE: This isn't a bus stop.

WANNABE: It's a conspiracy.

GONNA-BE: Start walking.

Aspiring writers often think they're missing something or in danger of watching an amazing opportunity slip through their keyboard. I suppose that actually happens now and then. But an established screenwriter once told me to start thinking in an "additive" way (will explain that in a future post) and stop thinking in a "subtractive" frame of mind because what we wannabes consider missed opportunities aren't. You can't miss an opportunity that was never really there to begin with.

* You can't lose something you don't have

* Producers can't return a call you didn't make.

* Agents can't reject a query you didn't submit.

* You can't lose a contest you don't enter.

Those are pretty easy concepts to readily accept as truths. But we writers have kind of a game show mentality about these things and they don't seem quite so simple when we --

* did make the call

* did submit the query

* did enter the contest

You still can't lose something you never had.

An unanswered query or a "pass" on a read often feels like a missed bonus question. If I had only said this or if I had only done that, he may have asked to read my screenplay. Maybe. But while answering "hypnophobia" to the question "what do you call the fear of falling asleep?" may win you a $500 bonus, there is no definitive way to word a query that will guarantee a read. Nothing is lost except the price of the stamp.

An unreturned phone call feels like rejection. It's not. Rejection is being hung up on, kicked to the curb, or left at the alter. An unreturned phone call is twenty minutes of somebody's life that they chose not to give away. You aren't entitled to it. It's not yours to begin with so you can't lose it.

Losing a contest is an oxymoron. You can't lose it if you didn't first win it. Two years ago, there was a writer who won a Disney fellowship but because she hadn't disclosed certain information, she was stripped of the opportunity. THAT's a lost contest.

Now and then, we may actually miss out on a tangible opportunity, contract, sale or opt. Disappointment happens. We sulk and move on. The time, research, effort, and mental energy we spent on our screenplays is never lost. Neither is what we learned through the process.

But writing boards and writing classes are full of writers worrying about events they can't control, things that aren't even happening and people they don't even know as if opportunity might pass them by if they look the other way or doze off. Hypnophobia won't help. I can stare at a phone all day but it won't ring unless somebody dials my number and losing sleep over it doesn't give me control of anything except my eyelids.

PIGLET: Pooh, what if it rains?

POOH: What if it doesn't?


Anonymous said...

do you have any more info on that person who had the Disney Fellowship revoked?

MaryAn Batchellor said...

I heard of it from a friend but it was also posted by the strippee on Wordplay. I don't know how to post links in the comment section but here's the post:

Summary: DUI is a crime. Admit it. And, don't tell white lies about your education.