Monthly Archives: February 2015

Yeah. Imposter Syndrome. You know what I’m talking about.

C’mon. If you’ve had any success at all, or were/are on the verge of it at any time, you KNOW what it is.

I have a horrible case of it at this moment and it haunts me and I have to fight it because right now everything couldn’t be going better. People are returning my calls, and in a timely manner. People I want to work with are calling me to talk. Or working with me. Or optioning my stuff. Or making them. It’s all kind of magic.

So what’s the problem? I’ll tell you what. I look at all of it and think, “This is ME! How soon before they figure that out? How long can I fool them before they catch up with me?”

Imposter Syndrome.

The constant waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the production companies and producers and directors to one day look at you and go, “What were we thinking? Can we get a real writer in here please?”

Like everyone who is afflicted with the strong desire/need to write films or TV (I truly feel sorry for you), I daydreamed long and hard about all the things that have actually happened in the last four years.

It can seem surreal, like I’m watching it detached from who I am. Sitting on a film set watching well known actors say your lines and be the characters you dreamed up. I’ve caught myself looking around the set and wondering how soon they’re going to kick me out because this really can’t be happening.

Imposter Syndrome is a real thing. It affects writers, actors, directors... and you have to not let it overwhelm and paralyze. I’ve talked to many writers and actors who will tell you it’s always under the surface someplace ready to spring out and cripple them. Even the most outwardly confident.

When I start feeling this way, I find that if I read one of my scripts I haven’t read in a while, besides finding typos and things I can improve (always), I also find really cool stuff I forgot I thought of. Stuff that’s good. Sometimes really good. And it helps me realize that maybe I do deserve to be here doing the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do professionally.

When I was nervously waiting what I thought was too long a time to hear about a rewrite from a director a few weeks ago, I finally talked to her. And after she told me she loved it, I admitted I had convinced myself she hated it because she didn’t call right away. I also admitted to her I was probably too neurotic and needy for my own good. She said, “Relax. All writers are neurotic and needy. Goes with the territory.”

So... we got that going for us.

If you write well enough get a manager or agent, option something or sell something, or get a rewrite or adaptation job, stand tall. You did something good (or sometimes great) to deserve it. You’re there because you did the work and did it well. That’s not an accident.

Don’t always looks for the other shoe to drop. Be prepared for it though, because at times it certainly does drop, but a LOT of times it doesn’t. Honest. They’re not going to find you out because there’s nothing to find.

It took me a while to realize that when I was invited to production meetings it was because they wanted me there and wanted me to contribute. I can tell you the exact meeting where I finally realized I had earned my seat at that conference table. Best meeting ever. It was a revelation. Learn this: If they ask you to be there, they WANT you there. Accept it.

The first time I visited a set for a film I wrote they had a director’s chair at the monitors and a headset to listen all ready for me. A LONG LONG way from my days as a Film and TV Extra, where I started in this industry so many years ago. Extras are, well, below the guys who water the plants on the film set food chain. At the very bottom. Below the bottom. I once heard a major film producer refer to Extras as “Props that eat.”

So sitting there that day in that director’s chair, looking back on where I was once and where I was then, and having everyone be so amazingly nice and respectful, kind of threw me off my game. Imposter Syndrome. You know it exists. Now you know it by its insidious name. Now you can recognize it and fight it.

We’ll fight it together.

Yes. You read that right. Strategic Patience. I first heard this term when someone in our Government used to it to explain why they weren’t doing anything about a huge problem that needed attention. I laughed, but on second glance I thought, you know, really not a bad term to use when it comes to writers.

As every experienced writer knows, patience is something that is needed almost as much as creativity is. I was terrible at it for a long time. I stressed and fretted about not hearing from producers or production companies after submitting something. I let my imagination run wild and all of it bad. But I finally learned to let it go. Let things happen when they do.

A writer hears NO more than any other word in their professional life. From direct NO’s, to light positive NO’s, to broad excuse NO’s, to “we love it, but...” NO’s, and everything in between. The worst is the silent NO where the producer just never responds and you’re supposed to understand that is still a direct NO. In fact, and this is a truth. Anything that isn’t a direct YES with a contract involved is a NO.

And you’re supposed to understand that NO is standard and the occasional YES it supposed to be treated like a miracle that might not ever happen again. I understand it, but it still hurts a little no matter how many times you experience it, whether it’s for a spec or for a rewrite or adaptation job you thought you had a chance for.

I’m asked all the time by new writers “How long do you wait to hear from a producer or manager/agent after you submit a script?” My answer is always the same. “Who the hell knows?”

You can hear the next day or you can hear in 6 months or a year. Or as I said before, never. Good producers, good agents, good managers are busy people. In most cases, really busy people. They also usually have a huge stack of scripts to read. The ones sent from friends, professional contacts, actors, the big agencies... those get read first. Sorry. Just the way it is. They do get to yours if they’ve requested it, but most of the time it isn’t timely. And you as a writer have to practice strategic patience. Meaning... you can’t be calling to find out what’s going on or emailing on a regular basis asking if they’ve read it yet. Yes, you can do these things, but sparingly. Being a pain in the ass is not the impression you want to leave.

This is also goes for writers who send in rewrites on a heavy deadline and then hear nothing for weeks. I know it’s tough. I’m experiencing it now. The big rewrite I had to have done on January 5th and got in on time? Have I heard anything yet? Not a thing. Does that make a writer semi-crazy? Uh huh. But the last time I had a deadline like this with the same company I waited 10 months to hear. Yes, I called or emailed a couple of times during that period and received very nice polite answers that said, “We’ll get to it.” This is a GOOD company that I’ve worked for many times, so I wait. Strategic Patience. Last time after not hearing 10 months, they called to tell me when the first day of shooting was and how we needed to rush the next rewrite for production. You just never know.

But you can still get caught in it. You can still misfire and be stupid. I had a very interesting 5 day rewrite on a script that a director and producer needed done because at the end of the 5 days they start their location scouting. Tight tight schedule. I was thrilled to get the job after pitching for it. I got the script on the Friday before Superbowl, read it and made my notes Saturday, and had a conference call to pitch my ideas with the director and producer on Sunday before the game, then waited until Tuesday when I got the job. No time to celebrate either because they needed it Saturday. Terrific people, too. Very open to my ideas and pretty much let me apply those ideas any way I wanted. So I sent it to them early, late Friday Night. Yes, I did write about 12/16 hours a day to get it there. They said they would read it immediately and get back to me.

And then Saturday & Sunday came and... nothing. About 5pm on Sunday, I texted the director with a “Hey, you guys read it yet?” She got right back to me to say basically, “Relax, we’ll get back to you soon.” So, like most neurotic writers I immediately figured the reason they hadn’t called was because they hated it and were busy rewriting it themselves. I was a failure. What did I do wrong? My wife, who was used to this when I first started out, hit me. “Stop it. Have you learned nothing?”

Apparently. They called Monday late afternoon to say they loved 95% of it and the other 5% was the part I didn’t particularly like either. They didn’t have a solve for that 5% yet and neither did I, so we’re in a holding pattern on that, but the rest... they really liked and were going to use.

I let my own discipline about patience fly out the window. Not good. It makes me look unprofessional. It raises my blood pressure. And my wife hits me. (not hard, ok?)

I have a white board in my office that has a list of everything I’m actively working on listed with deadline dates if they have them, number of pages completed if it’s a script, and a checkmark next to it when it’s finished, like a synopsis or treatment (don’t get me started on treatments, I hate them more than anything). And then, when I send it, the date it got sent.

Then after a month or so, or I get more work than the white board can hold, I start erasing. Even if I haven’t heard back yet. My way, I think, of compartmentalizing everything. To send and try to forget for at least a while.

Right now, besides waiting for news on the rewrite from January, I’m waiting for news about my Procedural Series from a very large Production Company who told me they are excited by it. By the way, production companies can be very excited about something you wrote and not buy it. Happens every day. So, I wait. And I move on to other projects and opportunities and will not be bugging them. You have to let things happens in their own time. Hollywood time. Where time sometimes stands still. And remember for every NO you waited a long time for, when you get a YES it’s all worth it. Honest.

You send something? Be smart. Practice Strategic Patience.