I was up in London recently to meet Charlotte Colbert, the incredibly talented director of the excellent horror film She Will. On the train home, I ran out of things to read, so I idly wrote down - in vague response to Boris Starling, who'd written something similar online - my CONTENTIOUS ADVICE FROM A CONTRARIAN WRITER. Obviously, your mileage may vary.
But here goes:
1. Arrive on time, every time. No excuses.
2. Nobody will die if they don't get it Monday.
3. If a project is suffering or you are suffering, quit. (I have walked 3 tmes in 35+ years - all for good reason, but all painful decisions.)
4. "No" is a beautiful word.
5. They never give you enough time to get it right, but, miraculously, there is always time to do it again.
6. Shouters have already lost.
7. Take inspiration from other people's writing, but unless you add something of your own life experience, it's worthless.
8. "Resilience" is a dangerous concept - writing skill is nothing to do with strength of character. Be aware that there are those who have trouble setting one foot in front of the other (creatively or psychologically) - and it is not a flaw. Support them, because they might be the smartest person in the room.
9. Don't take every job that is offered. Your career is your choices, and you have to live with that. (Then again, no sin to make a living.)
10. Have self doubt. Those who don't tend to be pricks.
11. Not all criticism is valuable and too much can capsize a perfectly good boat.
12. Bottom line, look after your own soul and the writing will take care of itself.
13. You might be a sceptic and an atheist, but it doesn't mean your characters aren't on a spiritual journey.
14. Lose yourself in your writing - in every sense.
15. An actor's question, and the director's answer, might be about something you never thought of.
16. You don't choose your subjects (or obsessions), they choose you.
17. Don't say you're "lucky" - you are talented and you work hard. 99% of the population would love to do what you do, but that doesn't mean you shoulod be embarrassed or "grateful" for doing it for a living.
18. On those days you might, god forbid, hate what you're doing - for whatever reason - don't resist the pull to the dark or try to talk yourself into believing it's all rosy. Take a deep breath, sink deep, and, god willing, come out the other side with renewed vigour. (In short: fucking wallow.)
19. No job is beneath you, or beyond you.
20. Social media is an addiction, and like all addictions, both loathsome and offering certain irresistable benefits.
21. A director once told me the world is divided into nice people who don't get films made, and absolute shitbags who get movies off the ground.
22. Writing free for "exposure" is toxic and unrelenting. And now they aren't even guilty about asking you to write for no pay. It's a disease.
23. Occasionally write a story for yourself that nobody else will eer read. It's the best way to recalibrate your inner writer. The secrecy of exploring an idea without any commitment to outcome.
24. Remind yourself of the time that script note you resented, and resisted at all costs, turned out to be right.
25. Dickens might not have written for EastEnders if he was living today. He might have become Guillermo Del Toro or Steven Spielberg.
26. People will always ask you questions about that scene the director wrote.
27. Sometimes writing is like beating sheet metal with a sledgehammer. Sometimes the sheet metal is you.
28. If you have spare time on a train journey, don't write a list, write a scene.
Screenwriter and author