When people ask me for advice on writing or directing, or almost any project, "finish what you start" is the first thing I tell them. As a young man I'd start a novel or a script or a film and it would all be going amazingly well, and then I'd hit a snag... something that stopped me.
Maybe I was judging the
project, or I lost my passionate fuel, or I became distracted by a
newer, shiner project. And so I just stopped and moved on. I didn't
think the problem was me; I thought it was the projects I was choosing.
I thought I would eventually find the right project that would fix
everything for me, that would be THE project that would propel me to
I was in my twenties and becoming discouraged. I was
seeing people around me, who I thought were less talented than me,
getting film deals and TV deals. It wasn't because I was lazy - I was
often writing for fifteen or sixteen hours a day. Why wasn't I doing as
well as others?
And one day it came to me in a burst of
inspiration: Perhaps the missing ingredient was incredibly simple - I
just needed to finish whatever I started. There was nothing wrong with
the projects I had been choosing. The problem was me: I just hadn't
followed them through. Any of them could have been "the one."
Fear was what most often kept me from completing something. What if it
wasn't good enough? What if I put my heart into something and put it out
there and I looked stupid? I realized I had to act despite my fear if I
wanted any of the benefits of artistic achievement (which include
artistic achievement itself).
So I started finishing whatever I
started. It became the primary goal of my writing. And it was only a
matter of months before everything in my life changed dramatically, both
in terms of how I felt about myself, and in terms of how the world
treated me in regards to my career.
Finishing what you start -
plowing ahead, no matter what - is what separates amateurs from
professionals. It's what transformed me from a wannabe, kinda writer
into an actual writer.
Obviously, not everyone who finishes what
they start in every endeavor will be successful - natural ability and
experience and personality make up a huge part of success. But I do
think it is the most important aspect of being successful. (And,
contrary to popular belief, "having connections" is NOT an important
aspect of being successful - of all my successful friends in the film
industry, maybe two were born with connections.)
As writers and
directors we have to be self-starters, because no one will hire us with
nothing to show for it. And, if you're a beginner, finishing what you
start is the quickest way to improve. You learn a lot more about writing
from completing a screenplay than you do from writing the first thirty
pages of ten screenplays.
Finally, if you're an open-minded and
honest person, finishing what you start is a way to learn if you want
to pursue a career in whatever field you're considering. Maybe you
aren't that great at the job you're considering - but you'll never know
that unless you try.
I don't know what's propelled me to write
all this this morning - perhaps it's a conversation I had this weekend.
But enough of Facebook for me, as I have a project I need to get to
I wish you all luck and perseverance.
Have a lovely day, james