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The Key To Success

By Marilyn Horowitz

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I recently gave a seminar on the business of screenwriting for the graduating class of Screenwriters at The School of Visual Arts in New York City. The seminar was loosely based on my book, How to Sell Your Screenplay in 30 Days.  My job was to teach a group of budding screenwriters the nuts and bolts of the less creative aspects of becoming a professional screenwriter.  I presented all of the “standard basics” of the business side of the profession, however, I realized that if you stop there without addressing the following topic, you shortchange your opportunities as a screenwriter .  The most important aspect of succeeding from a business point of view in the industry requires the following three principles. These three principles are based on the teachings of the great Rabbi Hillel.

1.  If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

You must be willing to stand up for yourself, and believe in your own talent and worth. For many of us, this is not easy, but it is the most important thing along with self-acceptance. Inner work, meditation and spiritual practices can help, but the best route is to achieve this is to set goals that you then meet.  Self–confidence or lack thereof is almost as important as talent.

2.  If I am only for myself, what am I?

Self-confidence is often mistaken for selfishness. It’s not. Being a good person who helps others and contributes to society not only improves your “luck,” it builds more self-esteem and confidence. I don't mean that you need to work in a soup kitchen, though you might get some great ideas for your next script, I am referring to the idea of looking around and seeing if a classmate or colleague could use help that doesn’t interfere with your plans, and helping them out. Personally, I feel that helping others is the most worthwhile thing.

3.  If not now, when?

The Rabbi was wise in that the longer we wait to act, the less likely we are to actually do so.  Again, aside from all of the obvious benefits of acting on your plans in a timely manner, this behavior will improve your self-esteem and confidence. A New York cab driver once told me his secret to life: “Plan your work, and work your plan. Do something about it every day.” Amen!

The intention of the 30-day marketing plan as presented in my book is to not only encourage screenwriters to market and protect their scripts, to foster self-belief and teach habits that help writers maintain self-esteem. The lack of self-esteem is the major cause (outside lack of talent) of failure. Make a 30-day plan that supports your intention to market or write a script. Carry out your plan over the next thirty days. You will be amazed at the positive shift in both your perspective and the outside world’s response to your efforts.

To get you started in creating your plan, here’s the exercise:

Step 1.  Set a timer for 15 minutes.
Step 2.  Make a list of everything that remains to be done on your current project, including revisions as well as business and marketing items.
Step 3.  Order them in accordance with the amount of work.
Step 4.  Re-order them so that each step follows the other in a logical order.
Step 5.  Print out a full size 30-day calendar and put the steps, one for each day.
Step 6.  Complete the first item on the list.

To recap, the key to success is to improve your self-esteem, self acceptance and self–confidence. You do this by acting for your best good, and for other people. You maintain this by creating a 30-day plan, and sticking to it. Like my cab driver said, “Plan your work, then work your plan.”

Here’s to your happy and successful writing!

About Marilyn Horowitz

Marilyn Horowitz is an award-winning New York University professor, author, producer, and Manhattan-based writing consultant, who works with successful novelists, produced screenwriters, and award-winning filmmakers. She has a passion for helping novices get started. Since 1998 she has taught thousands of aspiring screenwriters to complete a feature length screenplay using her method. She is also a judge for the Fulbright Scholarship Program for film and media students. In 2004 she received the coveted New York University Award for Teaching Excellence.

Professor Horowitz has created a revolutionary system that yields a new, more effective way of writing. She is the author of six books that help the writer learn her trademarked writing system, including editions for college, high school, and middle school. The college version is a required text at New York University and the University of California, Long Beach.

Professor Horowitz has written several feature-length screenplays. Her production credits include the feature films And Then Came Love (2007). Her new novel, The Book of Zev is available on Amazon.

Screenwriting Article by Marilyn Horowitz

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