Mindset Of A Professional Screenwriter by Erik Bork

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: This question is from viewer Nolen Putnam “What is the most helpful habit you’ve created (in regards to screenwriting) that’s allowed you to become a professional?”

Erik Bork, Screenwriter/Author: That’s a great question, is there one habit that has been the most helpful? We’ve talked about most of them, probably the most important perspective has been to see it as something I am always learning, I’m always growing and that that’s okay. It’s not like I’m supposed to know it all and be perfect at it and the things that I write are going to be great automatically and others are going to love them.

To see it more as it’s an ongoing quest of kind of a self-development, self-education, I’m learning with everything that I write what works better and not as good. So it’s like this journey of development that you are going to enjoy the journey, as opposed to I have to get to a certain place which it’s easy to feel that way because the world works that way. Where I have to get the agent, I have to get the sale, I have to get something produced, I have to raise my money and make my movie.

There are all these goals that we might have in the world and a lot of times they are out of our control and if you focus only on those goals like what I can get, what I can achieve instead of what can I express? How can I just do what I decide I want to do which is be a writer and keep learning and growing and find some satisfaction in that journey. Because when you turn it into there have to be these quantifiable results in terms of money or other’s reactions (whatever), then you’re putting your power in this thing that may or may not ever happen, you can’t for sure make happen no matter what you do. I think that attitude might seem counterproductive because Well to be successful (professional) you want to focus on the professional goals, right? Well you do to some extent, you are open to feedback and you are educating yourself. I didn’t say just go in a hole and do what you want to do and never…and shut the outside world out.

Check out Erik’s new book on Amazon here!

I’m saying engage with the world with feedback, with education, with trying to understand and get better so it’s growth. But making it a positive growth for yourself is about making me better and making my writing better, not making my results better. Because when you focus on how do I give more, how do I write something that is really going to impact people more, how do I that? How do I figure out how to do it? How do I get better at it, you are then about giving to other people and you will achieve success I believe more when you succeed at giving more. You get more automatically as opposed to how do I get the success, how do I get the breaks, how do I get the right person to read it, how do I get people to like it? It’s more how do I create something so wonderful that people will just automatically like it, I’m not even concerning myself with that. So it’s like taking the power into your own hands and being about how you can improve your stuff, your self as a writer. Having that approach I think is a stronger healthier approach that is going to lead to success more than you do it the other way.

Film Courage: That’s amazing because especially to if you do live here in Los Angeles (I know you’ve said you don’t necessarily have to, but it definitely helps) you are bombarded every second with reminders whether it’s billboards or someone going by you, somebody else that’s is higher up on the proverbial food chain and it’s thrown in our face. It’s really wonderful to think of the unplugging from that because this is almost the anti-culture here. Was this something that was almost part of your make-up or you had to learn this?

Erik: Oh no, I had to learn. Again it’s like an everyday practice (that thing again), an everyday practice of I’m being about the purity of expression of growth and learning and improving as opposed to how do I get the results that I want from others? Because we don’t naturally do it that way, we have to sort of decide that’s how I’m going to approach this instead.

Film Courage: And also to in the last few years (and not to get too morbid) but we’ve seen people who have achieved tremendous success obviously not be happy and then you have to ask yourself Well why am I doing this? And it has to be (and as follow your bliss bumper sticker on the back of a car as it sounds) it has to be about that, because we do see these people who have achieved amazing results and the end result for them showed that it wasn’t enough.

Erik: I do think it really is about making the daily practice/journey/writing whatever enjoyable. Being at peace and enjoying what you’re doing each day, finding a way to make it that way so the journey is a positive journey and not be so caught up in the destination because if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re going to…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Watch the video interview on Youtube here


About Erik Bork:
Erik Bork is a screenwriter best known for his work on the HBO miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS and FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, for which he wrote multiple episodes, and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team. Erik has also sold series pitches (and written pilots) at NBC and FOX, worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. He teaches screenwriting for UCLA Extension, National University and The Writers Store, and offers one-on-one consulting to writers.


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How does a screenwriter break into the business? Is it all about who you know? How much networking, hustle, and craft does it take? Once you break in, how do you survive and sustain a career? In this 2 hour speaker series(that will include Q&A), screenwriter Mark Sanderson (aka @scriptcat) will take us through his journey of graduating from UCLA and how he balanced various odd jobs with his writing for years until he reached the point where screenwriting became his career. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t easy. His story shows us it’s possible and in this talk Mark is going to share the particulars of how he did it.