In 1996, I decided I wanted to have a career in Hollywood.
Exactly how and when … that part was a little fuzzy.
At the time, the only published writing to my credit were various articles for network marketing journals, hardly the stuff of mainstream, and some health and environmental pieces I’d written back in the eighties. No publishers, no agent, no books, no nuttin’.
Screenwriting: a complete unknown.
So I started reading. Read a ton of books on screenwriting. Haunted the “Cinema” shelves at the local Barnes & Noble, checking to see if there were any new published screenplays (there almost always were) and bought every one. Scrutinized them, read every word. After a few years discovered you could download screenplays from the Internet (this was the late nineties, we didn’t assume things like that back then) and started downloading, printing, reading, studying.
Found out the legendary Robert McKee was teaching a seminar in New York City and took that. It was just a few weeks after 9/11; I’d never seen New York so somber. Took another seminar from another famous screen teacher, David Freeman, who connected me to a screenwriting coach, Erik Oleson, who gave me some excellent writing tips. Went to a Roger Ebert seminar with my son Nick, where Ebert walked us through Hitchcock’s The Birds frame by frame, a few of the most enjoyable hours I ever spent.
Eventually connected through a friend (thank you, James!) with a screenwriting teacher in Hollywood, a brilliant teacher named Hal Croasmun, took a pile of online courses with him.
Wrote some screenplays, or drafts, anyway. Entered them in contests. Didn’t win anything.
And none of this got me a career in Hollywood.
What happened instead was that, while I was busy working on my screenplays, a friend asked me to write a book with him, so I did, and another friend asked me to write a book with him, and we never actually wrote that one but he did introduce me to his literary agent, and the literary agent liked the book that I’d written with the first friend, which turned out to be The Go-Giver, and that led to writing a few other books, and that led to my agent asking if I was interested in writing a book with this Navy SEAL who was looking for a writing partner, which I did, which led to writing a few more books with that new friend, who got introduced to Mark Harmon, the star and executive producer of the hit CBS show NCIS, which led …
To this announcement in the Hollywood Reporter, a few days ago:
The American Sniper effect is continuing to stretch into television. CBS is teaming with Mark Harmon to develop Brandon Webb and John David Mann’s New York Times bestseller The Red Circle: My Life in the Navy SEAL Sniper Corps and How I Trained America’s Deadliest Marksmen, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. CBS has handed out a script commitment to the drama.…
(Read the whole story here.)
Okay: It’s not exactly “a career in Hollywood” per se, because I’m not actually writing the show itself. But as a sign of confirmation that we’re heading in the right direction?
Definitely more clear than fuzzy.
It took 19 years — but hey. In the big scheme of things? Blink of an eye.
There is intention: having a clear picture of where you want to end up.
That part, I believe, is up to us.
Then there’s how you get there; that part, I believe, is up to God, the universe, the world around us. The universe has a lot more wisdom, after all, than we do. I don’t believe you can have utter clarity about that. Pretending you do is like a child insisting on getting his way: cute (maybe) but not really getting anywhere.
And how do those two come together, the intention and the actual pathway? I think, through an unswerving and unshakable commitment to doing the work, whatever the work might be.
Clarity of intention, openness to means and pathway, commitment to the work.
Destination; route; movement.
You supply the intention and the work. The rest will be along — just give it time.