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5 Lessons Film Producing Taught Me About Writing

Most writers have day jobs, which feed into their writing. Every Friday I’ll be asking a writer what unexpected lessons their day job has taught them about the craft.

This week, I decided to kick things off with thoughts from my own day job: film producing.

Lesson #1 - It’s all in the polish

With a film, no one cares whether the first draft was bad, or if an actor was hard to work with. In the end, it’s all about whether the film is good or not. Producing taught me to not sweat how good my manuscript is at the start, because all that matters is where I end up. And that realization is very freeing, because it helps silence the little voice that says “This is terrible,” with “Yeah, but wait and see, it’s going to be amazing!”

Lesson #2 - This car runs on passion

Whether we’re making a film or writing a book, a project takes a long time. Almost always longer than I think. The only thing that drives me forward on those dark days is pure passion. Passion keeps me proactive and positive, two things I’ve found essential to moving forward.

Lesson #3 - Don't avoid mistakes; make them count

While projects feel like they take forever and I know I should choose them wisely, I also feel it’s essential to make mistakes. Bad choices sometimes turn out to be good ones, and sometimes I've only learned to walk by falling repeatedly.

Lesson #4 - Be patient. Be very, very patient

A movie takes a village. Sometimes it feels like it takes a city. Though books may involve less people, they still take a ton of time and involve family, friends, editors, beta readers, designers, copywriters, and a whole army of other supporters. You're only so fast as you can make that whole machine move. But on the other hand, I also remind myself that writing is like taking a cruise: it’s meant to be enjoyable, so relish the journey, rather than yearn for the end.

Lesson #5 - It’s going to be the same every time, and different every time

Each time I start a new movie I think “This one’s going to be easier! More commercial! A better sell!” And it is. But not always in the way that I expect. It always brings new challenges, and often that’s where the magic of it all lies: in the unexpected, in discovering how the rodeo will play this time around. The important thing, I've learned, is that I keep getting back on the ride.

Any valuable lessons you've learned from your day job? Do share!

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