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By Michael Schilf · April 14, 2011
The modern decathlon is a set of ten athletic disciplines, testing an individual's strength, speed, stamina, technique, and endurance. Now when it comes to screenwriting, we certainly aren't sprinting, jumping, or throwing our way to the podium, but it does take the same five skill sets to secure success.
Strength has everything to do with mind over matter. And for the screenwriter, it is no different. Mental muscle is key – because screenwriting is a thinking profession that just happens to use a very specific form of writing to illustrate those great thoughts.
As a screenwriter, you have to work hard to work fast. The more scripts you get under your belt, the more you'll appreciate the importance of speed because, simply put: writing is rewriting. It can take ten or twenty drafts. So write fast and fight the temptation to revise as you go – you often don’t really know how to begin until you write “The End.”
The seasoned screenwriter understands that it takes ten years to have overnight success. If you want to be good at something, you have to do it – everyday, and for a long time. This is no secret and definitely not rocket science. So if you want to be a screenwriter, create a daily writing schedule and stick to it like crazy glue. Writer's block is no excuse.
Screenwriting is first and foremost a trade – with specific rules of structure – but the art in screenwriting comes down to the voice of the writer, or in other words, his or her technique. And you don't necessarily need an original idea to be successful, just a different world, different characters, or different execution. Remember, it's your voice. Your stamp. Your brand. Make it original.
It's the screenwriter’s capacity to overcome obstacles that is key. You will fail, and fail, and fail again, but it's your ability to overcome adversity and focus on the next script that will be your greatest ally. The possibility of breaking through into Hollywood is real, but without perseverance, it's impossible.