5 TV & Film Writers on How to Recover from Writing Setbacks

by Chris Richardson

You’re a TV writer and things are going well at the moment. You’re working on a show. You’re using your talent to do what you always wanted to do. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, many things.

Shows get cancelled. TV writers get fired. After that, it’s hard for them to handle rejection. Maybe they can’t find a good agent.

But, failure is part of the journey. If you don’t face challenges, chances are you’ll never move forward. You would just get stuck in a comfort zone and your show would get boring sooner or later. So yes, it’s important to look on the bright side. When you overcome the setback, you’ll come out stronger than ever.

The question is: how do you do it? How do TV writers overcome challenges? Let’s learn something from the best ones in this business, shall we?

1. Build Immunity Against Failure

This is something you do before facing real failure. Look; you have to expect setbacks. This career comes in a package with them. Do you know what Aaron Sorkin advises you to do? Get more education!

“Back in school, I wish I had taken more chances,” he said. “Back then, I would only do things I knew I was good at. I would do things to impress my friends or to impress girls, so I wouldn’t do anything where I might fall on my face. I think I would be better now if I had taken chances before. So I encourage young writer to do that. I encourage writers to do that and buck up their friends who will take the chance to fail.”

All educational programs give you chances to risk. Take the challenging courses! Even if things get impossible, you can always get a service like Essay Geeks to help with the projects. The important thing is to keep trying and keep building knowledge, skills, and experience. That will build your immunity against failure when the real thing comes.

2. Move in a Different Direction

What if you fail with the script about superheroes? What if you notice that the kind of story you tried writing doesn’t work? You try something different next time!

For Joss Whedon, that must’ve been difficult. He was not happy with the way Avengers: Age of Ultron was received. Moreover, he was not happy with the way he wrote it. What did he do? He moved on. He continued telling stories. But, he took it in a different direction.

When asked about his next project, he responded: “It’s definitely a departure? not from the things I care about ? but from the kind of storytelling I’ve done.”

3. Get This: Success Takes Time, So Keep Going!

“The overnight success is usually ten years in the making,”  says screenwriter Mark Sanderson. “It’s rare for screenwriters to sell their first script—or their third script. It wasn’t until my fifth script and six years after film school that my screenwriting career took off.”

Failure is common at the beginning. You’ll keep contacting producers and they will keep ignoring you. It’s okay. Keep writing more. Keep getting better! If you decided to become part of this industry, you probably understand that success takes time. The only way to succeed is investing years of diligent work.

4. Move!

In an essay for the Scriptshadow, Randy Steinberg emphasizes not moving to where the business is as one of his biggest mistakes.

“But here is the first and greatest mistake I ever made: I never moved to Los Angeles (I am from the Boston area). I had the opportunity when I was younger—before family and work made it an impossible decision—but I didn’t seize it. I labored under the impression I could write from afar, and, perhaps after a sale or another big development then move to Hollywood—or maybe never have to live there permanently.”

Look, there are writers who don’t live in LA. But if you want to get better access to TV writing deals, you should definitely consider moving there.

5. Just Follow Your Passion

Are you really passionate for writing? Can you preserve that passion even after failure? That’s what you should do.

Here’s what Vince Gilligan said on that matter: “Gird up your loins for failure because you will fail more often than you will succeed, and the best advice given that information (which again is pretty obvious information probably), but the best advice given that information is go down swinging at something that is important.”

If you fail, and you’re going to fail at one point or another, you better fail doing something you cared about. Use your time well. Do not fake enthusiasm and keep doing what you believe in. Take the risks!


Chris Richardson is a journalist, editor, and a blogger at EssayGeeks. You can follow him on Facebook and Google+.