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  • David Hal Chester

FIRST, YOU MUST BELIEVE

Updated: Oct 29

















I did not start screenwriting until the age at which most people have already achieved career success in their chosen field. In my case, I woke up one day, late in the game, and looked at myself in the mirror and said, "I think I'm supposed to be a screenwriter."


That was after decades of being a professional pianist and songwriter, not to mention a long list of other jobs I did to stay alive: journalist, singer, voiceover actor, proofreader, teacher -- you name it, I did it. But when it dawned on me that I was supposed to be a screenwriter, I quickly gravitated toward that river and jumped in.


I didn't know what I was doing and I had to fight my fear that I was too old to start. It was great that people frequently thought I was 10-15 years younger than I was. But I knew how old I was, and there were many days I woke up and thought, "Are you nuts? What are you doing?" But as the saying goes, I persisted. Through a combination of timing and sheer luck, I managed to make one contact, a director, who liked my scripts and championed me. Because of him, I finally got screenwriting assignments (it took eight years, but I got them). When I say "assignments," that's what I mean. None of the projects I have been paid to write are my own. And if you had told me 4 years ago that I would be earning a living (well, in a manner of speaking) by writing "thrillers," I would have laughed. But that is the point of today's blog. Although I knew I wanted to write screenplays, and although I put in the time learning how to write them, I didn't include "believing it will happen" in the equation. I think I thought, "Well, let's see if you can actually learn how to write one and let's see what the response is."

And that is as far as I let my mind think. But if I had been thinking, "Oh, hell, yes; I will be writing screenplays for a living and I will be successful" -- I think the opportunities I was lucky enough to receive might have happened sooner. In other words: I would have been a lot more aggressive about pursuing them instead of just thinking that "Oh, only professionals can get paying jobs doing this."


Well, in 4 years I have written 8 screenplays, all of which have been produced and all of which I have been paid for (well, still waiting on payment for the last one, but you get the idea). I have learned so much that I can sense my writing is smoother, clearer and moves more naturally. And now, finally, I believe; I believe I can do this and do it in a way that might be able to generate enough income to not only survive, but to eventually do my own original projects.


But first, you must believe that you can. You must ignore the fear that gnaws at you and write anyway. You must drown out those voices in your head that attempt to defeat you, and forge on. This is not just in the world of screenwriting, obviously, but that is the world I know best, at this point. I still do daily battle with myself, but the "believer" wins, because I have been hired enough times that it is not just a dream in my head, but a reality. There is so much further along this river that I must travel, and no doubt, the majority of it is upstream. But when you have belief in yourself, your paddle is magically stronger, and no matter what comes your way: storms, whitewater turbulence, waterfalls -- you will survive and, yes, you will succeed.

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DAVID HAL CHESTER