As the author of one book on screenwriting and another on filmmaking (The Portable Film School), I'm always wary of the competition. To be honest, there are lots of good books for new or newish screenwriters. None of them are really bad. It's just that some are really good. Superior.
All how-to books on screenwriting pretty much say the same things, but in different ways. It's like there are 100 books on Italian cooking, but at the end of the day, the recipes they teach are all dealing with the same ingredients. The key is the author of the Italian cookbook. He or she has a uniqueness, a certain style, a way of making difficult tasks seem easy or a way of making an experienced cook grow.
Viewing screenwriting books is the same. Some writers need lots of handholding, others want to be motivated, then there are those who like tough love. Whatever a screenwriter needs can be found out there. You may have to go through a few books or ask friends for recommendations, but you'll find 2 or 3 that will be a good fit.
"Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You can, Too!"by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon delivers on several levels. It's informative, entertaining as hell and gets into the craft of writing screenplays in a way that inspires. I've been a fan of these guys since Reno 911. I think Thomas Lennon is an amazing comic actor. I've heard him (and them) interviewed and these are two guys who know their way around Hollywood. This is a very solid book for any screenwriter.
As I said in the title of this review, their book isn't as good as mine, but it's damn close. BTW, they are not paying me anything to say all these nice things.
Whether it's in life or in the context of pursuing a career as a screenwriter, the presence of a mentor is important. Nobody does it alone, without guidance, without someone to motivate you or push you or talk some sense into you. If you're lucky enough to have someone who cares enough to want to inspire you to do better or to overcome those demons that have immobilized you and are preventing you from completing the first draft of your screenplay or getting the energy to start that rewrite, you're a fortunate person.
But some of us don't have a mentor. Or we had one or two, but we were too arrogant or insecure to listen to them. Add to the mix the fact that you're no longer in high school or college and finding potential mentors becomes increasingly narrow. Or you're too egotistical to want to listen to anyone.
But I'm not here to judge. I want this to be a judgment-free environment.
Let's just say that you would like to have a mentor, but the pickings are slim.
What do you do?
As the title of this post says, be your own mentor.
Learn how to inspire yourself, to push yourself, to get focused and to face the harsh reality that your career is not moving forward (let alone your screenplay) and the only person to blame is you. (I know I said I want this to be a judgment-free environment, but don't think of those last 7 words as judgement, but rather fact.
Just as you know when you've eaten too many Mallomars at one sitting or had too many Margaritas or behaved irresponsibly in some situation, you also know when you're not writing. You know what it's like to turn your frustration outward, when you should be turning it inward. By looking at yourself in a critical way, if you have the guts, you'll pinpoint what's preventing you from writing at all or completing your script.
There's nothing like a little fire in the belly to jumpstart a day at the computer. And there's nothing like some solid introspection and self-analysis to bring you to a moment of clarity.
It's real easy for all of us to bullshit our way into or out of anything, but that's negative behavior. No mentor worth his or her salt will ever BS you. Mentors tell the truth, whether we want to hear it or not. And, guess what, we don't want to hear it.
Compliments are nice, but it's the stuff we don't want to hear that will help us move forward.
If there's no mentor in your life presently and if you don't see anyone on the horizon, it's time to take charge and get the job done yourself.
Special thanks to JTC