Anything Goes : Have you taken that scary step yet? by Phil Parker

Phil Parker

Have you taken that scary step yet?

I'm finally leaving the job I don't want to do anymore to pursue my passion for writing. It's both scary and exciting to think about. I'm not crazy enough to think a little bit of attention for my spec script will turn into millions and fund my retirement, though. I make this leap with a carefully thought out plan. I know many artists struggle with this kind of dilemma all the time. The big question is, how do you fund your non-paying artistic life until it does pay off? It's taken a long time for me to get the pieces in place to make this step possible. It's not risk free, but what is in life, right? I would say a little bit of fear drives you to be more creative, both with your art and with ways to make money. Have you taken that scary step? Are there tips you can give to others dreaming of doing the same thing? :-)

Samuel Estes

Phillip - Best advice I can give is be honest with yourself, dreams and hopes are great, and something you need, but nothing beats good doses of reality. Surround yourself with people who are honest with you, can help you grow and learn. Its really good to know you have carefully thought out this step instead of a F*-all mentality and just going for it with no plans in place. As for income - find some kind of passive business income while you are growing. For us (music field), we have designed a commercial product for composers, it divides our time a bit, but helps even out the ebb and flow between gigs. Not sure what the analog would be for writers...

Phil Parker

That's sound advice, Samuel. Having a plan is essential. I've done the starving artist thing before and the stress over money that it causes takes too much away from the art you want to create. It took a long time, a bit of luck and some forward thinking for this to be even a possibility for me. If after 6 months it fails, I can always go back to what I'm doing now. Not the best outcome, but a safety net at least.

Mike Tyrrell

I was forced to take that scary step. I was losing my mind at a high paying but mind numbing job and I literally had a breakdown! Talk about the heart overcoming the mind. Best thing that ever happened to me. I can't say I'm making a living as a film maker/screenwriter, but I am a lot closer than I was when I was doing that life sucking job. Good luck and if you get a chance, check out my first feature film if you've got the time - would love to hear what people think! http://www.cinecoup.com/theories/differentiator

Phil Parker

Hey Mike, thanks for contributing to the thread. Good on you for making that scary jump. I had a look at that website and your film clips. Looks really interesting. I love the concept of that whole website, too. I'm not Canadian but I think I'll join just to support other filmmakers and see what cool stuff people like yourself are making. When I join, I'll be sure to throw a vote your way :-) Best of luck!

William G Chandler Jr

If internally you're called to do this, it is right. You can't force yourself to accept something you're willing to overthrow, at this point. Go for it.

Brian Shell

I took this scary step back in 1995... finished my first spec in 1997... ended up homeless in Venice Beach, CA trying to sell my script in 1998-9, ended up in two psych wards in 1999 and 2000... all because I was too damn stubborn to stop and get "a real job." Yet now I have 31 eBooks published and 7 paperbacks too... so the art of not-giving-up did pay dividends over a decade later. What I gave up in money, I more than made up for not having money by having 100% focus... 100% of the time... to focus 100% on chasing my dream. I have no regrets, but I wouldn't want to have to repeat the journey, Though I wouldn't trade its wisdom for the world, ya know?

Phil Parker

What an incredible story, Brian. Thank you for sharing, and I know exactly what you mean. I tried to go the starving artist route too early, years ago, and the stress was incredible. Now, ten years later, I've developed skills I can use in a freelance capacity. Combine that with a little bit of investment income and I will still be borderline, but it will give me enough freedom to pursue my dream. I'm very excited. :-) Thank you, William, too for the encouragement and wisdom. Spot on!

Phil Parker

Thanks, Kat! You're a gem and an inspiration :-)

Lauren Lindsey

Brains and Catherine I can relate all too well. I recommend self help books and spirituality and perhaps examining other aspects of the business you never thought about before. Lately I have kept getting paid to write, besides acting, so that may be my calling or what I am supposed to do in this business besides acting.

Kenya Hendricks

I am in the middle of that dilemma now. I want to quit my job and focus on my writing but I am terrified of the next step. I am a mom and I can't imagine my girls going without but I want to start shopping my work full time. I sometimes feel like my passion is too expensive..lol

Mike Tyrrell

Be wary of quitting your paid job unless you already have lots of money coming in from your writing. Writing is a tough gig and a lot of people are never able to make a living at it. If you can, carve out a little time to write every day. If you use dictation software you can write 4 or 5 pages in a few hours.

Ben Johnson Jr.

Thank you Philip for this enlightening and inspiring discussion. I'm working towards the scary step. I'm grateful for the job I hate doing, if that makes sense. I also teach music after work to supplement my income. My writing unfortunately gets the bits of me that are left after a long day. Yet despite the adversity, because of the support of my amazing family, I've persevered and made progress. Writing for me is both a passion and a business. In my humble opinion carving out a sustainable living from writing is impossible without growing the business side. Over the past six months I've approached my writing more as a business and it really opened my mind and eyes to the different possible income strands I cold tap into in order to create a viable income from writing. It isn't easy because I'm still learning to attach the correct value to my skills, services and products but I'm getting there. The plan is to set aside enough money to cover my overheads for 12 to 24 months and then to focus on writing. My rationale is: if I can make money off writing holding down two jobs then imagine what I could do writing full time. I think the key is flexibility. I don't want to take the step adamant that I want to sell a spec to Hollywood. Like any business it's supply and demand. I'm willing to start by doing what I have to one so that one day I may have the privilege of doing what I want to.

Brian Shell

When I was an engineer, "FOCUS" is what helped our corporation win a billion dollar contract. When I quit that company to pursue my dreams, I did possess 100% focus... and that is worth something. Yet filling the 24-7 space of non-structure that you sacrifice for that 100% focus and soon cause the walls to close in.... especially in the utter vacuum you feel after you finish. Then, as producer Lynda Obst is quoted as saying in her book, "Next!" Finding that "Next" can be tough. Focus can turn into insanity... but then when insanity is successful... it's called Genius

Jackie Perez

I work at an agency so I'm still making contacts and relationships with people in the business while I write and direct. Not only does it allow me access to lots of scripts to read so I can see what works and what doesn't, but I continue making contacts and a steady paycheck. Sure I get things done a lot faster if I could write/direct full time but the day I sell something is the day I'll consider pursuing writing full time. Even Stephen King had a day job.

Yvonne Coughlan

I did that in 2006, 'quit the job to pursue the passion', when my son was 19 and leaving home, and the final decision was a relief, because I knew the hole in my heart was crying out for creative expression, and the job was taking all my energy in the wrong direction. Last year, due to a serious financial catastrophy, I won't bore with details, suffice to say 'lesson learnt,' I went to work in my family business, because it was the 'sensible thing to do.' I could still continue, writing, producing a smaller number of artistic projects, but have a steady income, and they needed me. I stayed 14 months, and it was the hardest most soul destroying year, not just the work, there were always family issues with my decision to pursue the arts. Anyway, another lesson, finally learnt. So, while I do agree with those who advise caution, and to have a sideline, or a back up plan, and a realistic view that the bills need to be paid, I say we can live on a lot less money than we think, and no bank account has the capacity for the richness that your soul is earning when you follow your heart. I feel like I am currently in recovery, climbing my way back out of the crevice I fell into, in terms of film reference think '127 hours.' There are always sacrifices to be made, but job security is the limb I am happy to hack off. I know I'm falling into rant territory here now, but just as a final note, since I keft the job (again) not knowing how I was going to pay the rent, the work I want has been coming to me. Life is never going to be easy, but the universe provides when we believe in ourselves. I applaud your bravery and wish you every success Phillip. Thanks to everyone else in the strand for your inspiring words, I love this community.

Phil Parker

Thanks so much for sharing, Yvonne. I find your story, and everyone's on this thread, inspiring and helpful and I hope others do, too. Call it group therapy for artists, I guess :-) Stage 32 is a great place to be.

Phil Parker

Hey Kat, really? On the home page? I'll go check it out. Thanks! You da best! :-)

Patricia Yeager

Hello everyone, I am new here and have been trying to post an urgent message. I am an author and well known on LINKEDIN, I am not promoting linkedin, however, I am trying to warn everyone to GOOGLE one of the members here posing as a producer. His name is TERRENCE GLASS, ALIS, TERRENCE BREJLA, AND SEVERAL MORE. He is a known Scammer and has a record a mile long. DO NOT send him money. I apologize for having to introduce myself in this manner, however I am attempting to save you from him. PLEASE GOOGLE HIS NAME. He can change his name? But he cannot get off of Google. He is also on COMPLAINTS.COM BLESSINGS ALL.

Ben Johnson Jr.

Hi everyone, thought I'd just give you an update. My development funding for my feature has come through so I'm about to move to the next phase of my writing career. I will either move from a full time job to a half day so I can have more time to write or more likely resign and restart my music tuition business so I can write for half the day and teach in the afternoons. That would be a better choice because I could control my time better. I have some television series writing in the pipeline. If that materializes I will reduce the teaching quota. I also supplement my writing with script editing and story analysis. How goes it with the rest of you?

Phil Parker

Hey Ben, Congrats on getting the funding for your feature! Wow, that is very exciting! I like your plan for how you are going to concentrate on your writing going forward. It's all about finding a way to fund that passion that gets us up early and keeps us up late :-) Well done! Personally, I'm stepping into the world of freelancing in about 3 weeks. It will be a combo of writing and trailer/ promo freelancing that will fund my screenwriting habit. Hopefully it works out. I'll be working 12hr days to make it work, so it won't be from a lack of trying. :-)

Ben Johnson Jr.

Thank you Philip and I wish you all the best. Thank you for the invite as well. Let's keep in contact and continue to encourage one another. Have the very difficult task of resigning by the end of the month. My boss won't be pleased but I have to pursue my passion while I have the safety met of funding.

Phil Parker

Absolutely, Ben. Let's stay in touch. If you have thought long and hard about your career decision and have the means to change things, take strength from that when you make the final decision. I will be doing that myself, tomorrow.

Lynne Logan

Phillip, the belief you have in yourself is great. I do a lot of 'life coaching' and have worked with many people who had the goal of 'breaking in' to the entertainment industry. Unless you have a pipe line of income to support yourself while you are 'writing and waiting', here's my best advice: Stay working, but get a job in the industry. Get any job you can get at a studio, at a writers office, in program development, on set, etc. Any job! Be willing to start at the bottom. (If you're good, you won't be there long). If you put yourself in an environment where you want success, see success happening every day (as well as see the mistakes), magical things can happen. What you ask? For starters, you will meet the right people. You will meet successful screenwriters. Doors can open for you. Opportunities will appear. You will know the 'players'. You will know the decision makers. You will have lunch with the 'right people'. (Even if you have to go get the lunch). IF you are talented, a nice person, care for others, help others, make people laugh, have a good personality, YOU WILL GET NOTICED. But of course, the talent MUST be there. You didn't mention what job you are leaving or what your skills are, but if those skills can be used in the industry, simply transfer them to a job where you can learn and grow in any level or area of entertainment. Use your 'new job location' as a lab. This will give you your 'hands on' degree. Invaluable. And of course, my last bit of advice: never ever ever give up! Remember one definition of success: "When Preparation Meets Opportunity". So be prepared and put yourself smack dab in the middle of opportunity.

Brian Shell

Lynne... what a great post... what fantastic advice on "breaking in." Luv it!

Ben Johnson Jr.

Right then, scary step taken Philip. Handed my resignation in today with a safety net of a year's salary saved. Here I go.

Andy Wasif

Leap and Annette will appear! (I know it's "A... NET," but wouldn't it be funny if someone named Annette came to your door with a development deal?)

Ben Johnson Jr.

Lol, Andy there's a comedy in there somewhere. Truth be told, I have just signed the contract for a development deal :-) I guess Annette did visit after all.

Phil Parker

Congrats, Ben, both on your scary step and for your development deal. That sounds great. I look forward to following you progress. The new chapter in my life starts Friday :-)

Ben Johnson Jr.

Philip that is awesome news. I wish you all the best.

Shawn Speake

I took that step 9 years ago because I'm obsessed! I went from eating out everyday to eating ramen noodles. Get ready to hustle like you've never hustled before! The average screenwriter's journey is 15 years. https://www.stage32.com/blog/Bullet-Proof-Pages

Other topics in Anything Goes:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In