I had just completed the Graduate Screenwriting Program at USC's School of Cinematic Arts. I remember at the time still referring to myself as a film student – not a screenwriter. There was something much safer about not having to admit it. But looking back now over a decade later, I see my mistake. I was nothing but a screenwriter – I was just too afraid to accept it fully.
Wherever I went, I was prepared with the standard equipment: notepad (pocket-sized for quick entries while hiding in the bathroom stall during formal occasions – such as a weddings or funerals), journal (for pretentious musings – usually written over a morning cup of Joe), and of course my inscribed stainless steel pen (I had a horrible habit of devouring the plastic ones).
I was constantly jotting down notes of interesting characters I met or scribbling away to get the spark of a story idea on paper, and some part of me knew I was a writer – I was screenwriting all the time – but it wasn't until I was looking out the window during a long Wisconsin drive to a Minnesota funeral that I truly understood what it is "to be" a writer.
If you write, it's because you can't help it. You love it. But knowing you love writing and being a successful pro are entirely different things. If you want to make writing your livelihood, you must have true grit: endurance, courage, and thick skin. But at the base fundamental level, you must first believe in yourself.
Be bold. Embrace your passion. The fear of calling yourself a writer - as if you're not worthy - is artistic suicide. Once you say it out loud - to yourself and the whole big bad world - you will be amazed at how much better your writing will become.
Never be embarrassed to be who you are, to do what you love, or to reach for your dreams. If you're lucky enough to discover your passion and work hard to take hold of it fully, trust me – you've already won.