Sunday, December 16, 2012

What I Think Of When I Think Of Success ...

This notion has been rattling around in my brain for a while.

And this morning, I saw an email and a blog post in the same vein. So my pondering has turned into writing. And here we are.

The subject line of the email reads The Perfect Gift For The Screenwriter On Your List.

Well, that'd be me. (My screenplay and I have reconciled recently.) I read on, to see what I should be giving myself this year.

One of the items, an on-demand webinar, is titled How to Write a Marketable Screenplay: Learn How to Structure your Script the Hollywood Way.

And my brain said, "How about writing a good screenplay? That should do the trick."

With all the dreck that comes out of Hollywood every year, I'm thinking that someone at a studio wouldn't read a good screenplay and say, "Well, Beth, this is a good screenplay. One of the best we've seen in years, really. If only you'd written it to be marketable ... . Sorry. I hear McDonald's is hiring."

And then I read Seth Godin's latest post, "The short head, the long tail and buying expensive scaffolding," about how much an artist, say, should forego on the front end for the chance at having a huge hit. He uses E.L. James as an example: "We can all agree (I hope) that 50 Shades isn't the best book published this decade, but it's certainly one of the biggest." He cites that she gave up a possible fortune in selling ebook rights cheap in exchange for a big bookstore push, and that perhaps that's what made her book such a huge hit.

I've read a couple pages of her book. I think it's crap. But a huge number of people bought it, so many that Random House gave every employee a $5,000 bonus this year and has a fortune from it left in its coffers, I'm sure.

A friend of mine who reads for pleasure – which is to say, she doesn't spend her days with Shakespeare and Faulkner, she reads a lot of popular stuff – said of James' book, "I just can't get into it." We had been discussing that despite its commercial success, it was getting poor reviews.

And I laughed and said, "Given the subject matter, if you can't get into it, it's poorly written."

But here's the thing: What does James think of it? I would hope that any author who puts a book into the world believes in their work, believes that it represents if not their very best effort than at least a very good effort. I would hope that authors aren't saying, "Eh. It's crap. But it might make me rich."

Or maybe I am just incredibly naive.

I mean, there are authors who have become such an industry that they have other people writing their books in order to keep up with demand.

I guess it all comes down to motive and priority.

And my priority isn't money.

Clearly. My checking account is so empty, you can almost see through it.

I have no desire to learn a magic formula that will allow me churn out a mediocre product for maximum profit.

I'd rather make a small amount of money from something I believe to be my very best effort that appeals to a small segment of the population.

Of course, I wouldn't be opposed to my very best effort being appreciated widely. That'd be lovely.

But it's the work, the creation. I have to be proud of that above all else. If success comes, great. If not, I know I put in my best effort.

Either way, I win.


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