Things I’ve learned from being unsuccessful

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

~ Albert Einstein

There had been moments in my life when I felt myself being useless, even a failure. When I thought about what I have achieved and what my parent’s expectations were, I could really cry. I felt like I have disappointed them in so many ways. Although they are not here anymore it still weigh on me sometimes.

But what exactly is success? Who decides if you’re successful of not?

It took me some years but I finally realise that success is merely a measurement and every person handles a different scale.

Allow me to share with you what I’ve learned over the past decade and how I measure success now.


Self-pitying does not help

It all starts with self-pitying. You see family or friends achieving one success after another. Family and friends always talk about the ONE who has accomplished a big thing. Your head is spinning, thinking what did I accomplish? Why don’t they talk about me? Well, who cares? Today they talk about the one, tomorrow they’ve already forgotten the one.

The point is, don’t compare yourself to others. Because in your eyes they will be always more successful than you. Focus on yourself! Start thinking what you did. Did you start writing that novel you always wanted to write? Did you start baking a three-layered cake you’ve always wanted to bake? Or maybe you want to climb the Mount Everest in a Pokemon cosplay suit? Put on the suit and start training! Just do it!

The moment you start to do whatever you want to do, even the smallest amount of effort is already success. You can now tell people you actually did it! If people know, it will motivate you to finish it. But if you don’t start, you will never taste success. And miss out all the fun of seeing peoples astonished faces when you tell them you’ve actually put on a Pokemon suit and climbed a wall!


Shift your focus to feel success

For a long time I only think I failed because it took me a very long time to finish my first screenplay. Actual writing became the measurement of success. If there are no words flowing from my fingers and hitting the computer screen, I think of it as a failure.

But then I realise that I have done research for the topic I’m writing about. I’ve read books about screenwriting. My head spins thinking about plots and story.

I’m not failing my writing. No words on my computer screen doesn’t mean I’m not writing. Because every minute of the day I am thinking about the story and I jot down notes. That is part of the writing process too.

So, not doing exactly what you want to do, does not mean you’re not successful. It’s the process that counts.


Recognise you successes

No matter how much success you gain, if you yourself does not recognise it you will still be unsuccessful.

Start with the small things. If you have achieved 2 pages of writings added to you story instead of ten, tell yourself that it is okay. Because you have two pages instead of zero!

Learn to be satisfied with even the smallest thing you have achieved.


It’s all in your mind!

Change your mindset! Tell yourself you are already very successful! I might be a screenwriter with zero productions. Yet! But I am a successful screenwriter. Because I have actually finished a screenplay and I’m working on other scripts too.

Hell, I am a successful mother taking good care of my kid, cooking for her, helping her with homework and tuck her in bed.

I am a successful employee as I always give a 100% at work and carry out my duties with great care.

I am a successful friend as I always make my friends laugh and have fun when we’re together.

Get it?


And remember: success is just a measurement

Success does not mean the same to everyone. No matter what you do, there are always people who think it could be done better. But there are also people who admire you for what you’ve done! Don’t lose yourself to the negative comments. Stick close to yourself and listen to what your heart tells you.

So, in the end, what’s my story about?

It’s simple. If, on a scale from 1 to 10 you always set 10 as being successful, I can assure, you will always be a failure.

Nobody is perfect and certainly nobody can achieve tens all the way. If you succeed to achieve a 10 once, twice or maybe three times, well, spread it over a life time, I can really say, u suck.

But instead, why not just set your scale at 3 or 4 or maybe 6, wouldn’t you feel a lot more comfortable and successful?

Life is not just about successes. It is, well, about life! About being alive! Enjoy every moment of it. Enjoy every moment you are chasing success and don’t just fixate on reaching success. Let the ride thrill you as well. Although at the end you don’t succeed in what you wanted to do, you have at least tried and enjoyed doing it.

Downton Abbey, reviver of my writing spirit

“To persevere, trusting in what hopes he has, is courage in a man.”

~ Euripedes

In the past few months I’ve finished and rewritten my first screenplay. I’ve even sent it out to some screenwriting contests. I was very proud and satisfied and It gave me strength to carry on.

The idea for my first story came to me rather easily and I do strongly believe in this story. But now that it is finished I felt myself falling into a dark hole. I have another story in mind but it doesn’t feel as strong as the first one. So, I started to doubt. I doubt myself, I doubt my capabilities, I doubt my skills.

While I was self pitying I thought I might as well watch some TV series or movies to cheer myself up (and for research of course!). As I was curious why Downton Abbey was so highly recommended (and because of the wonderful Dame Maggie Smith) I started to watch it on Netflix. After the first episode I was already hooked.

It was not a very good idea, starting to watch it; I finished watching four seasons in three days! After that my mind could only think of Downton Abbey! And every character flows in my mind all day long. I think about the fate and fortune of all characters. The good ones and the ill-minded ones. That doesn’t happen often when I watch a movie of series. I did not only enjoy the serie, I actually learned a great deal from it!

Every scene of every episode is so well constructed. Every bit of it contains intrigue, suspense, conflict and mysterious twists that moves the story forward and hook the audience. Every character is so well built that makes the audience curious about all their fates. From the earl to the footmen, from the ladies to the kitchen maids. Every story line is just so fabulously written. Watching the serie is almost like you’re a part of it yourself!

It could discourage a novice writer like me. Because watching such a masterpiece can make a novice writer, who struggles with story construction and writing, feel very small. But the odd thing is, I don’t feel that way! Downton Abbey was a wonderful gift to me (or rather, a subscription on Netflix was a wonderful gift I gave myself). It gave me courage to persevere writing. Julian Fellowes has shown me the tricks of how a good story should be and what good scenes need in order to push the story forward. He gave me strength to keep on constructing stories. And I just hope that one day I will have such a masterpiece of my own that people will love to watch.

 

Carol, saviour of my writing soul

“Flung out of space.”

~ Carol

Carol is literally flung out of space to me. I watched this movie a few weeks back and it hit me hard. It’s such a beautiful, delicate and gorgeous movie. Todd Haynes really blew my mind with his directing! Phyllis Nagy inspired me to keep on writing. This movie will stay #1 on my most favourite movie list.

I fell in love with this movie instantly. Read about why I love Carol so much here on the Londen Screenwriters Festival website.

The Voyage of Writing

“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
~ Marcel Proust

Over the past year I had learned about writing techniques. I’ve read dozens of books and watched hundreds of videos on the internet to acquire the knowledge of writing.

I learned about structure and about building characters. I’ve read that a writer has to use different words to describe the story to draw the readers attention. I gathered valuable information about writing techniques from well known writers on the internet. With all these knowledge I started writing my first project, a screenplay. It was then that I start to struggle with the story!

How do I develop a story? I couldn’t find much about it on the internet! Well, sure! I had ideas! I did have parts of the story in my head. But how do I connect all the loose parts and mash it into one smooth story? I felt a bit lost…

So, I took some time to let all the information subside. I went out for a walk to get some fresh air. After a short walk I bought a cup of coffee and sat down on a bench to enjoy my favourite drink. I watched people walk by. Dogs sniff at everything. Small children try to walk away from their mothers. And clumsy mothers who try to catch up with their runaway toddlers while carrying heavy diaper bags and pushing baby-buggies. And suddenly I realised that I can find stories everywhere. All I had to do was to open up my senses and observe everything around me!

Last Friday while I was waiting for the metro I picked up a conversation of a group of students. One of the students held a tripod in one hand and while talking he used his free hand to show his friends how a motorbike passed him closely when he walked on the curb that morning. His friends all gasped when he showed them how close the motorbike passed him. He was furious about the incident as he was almost hit by the two-wheeled vehicle. He used almost every part of his body to describe the incident. When he flung up his occupied hand the tripod almost hit a woman who stood a bit too close to the group. The woman did a step back. The talking student’s cheeks turned red when he realised he almost hit someone. He apologised immediately. The woman smiled and walked away quickly.

I was surprised that I described the whole scene in my head with words. Before I started writing I would watch the incident and didn’t pay much attention to it. But now, I observe the actions and overhear the conversations and I try to think about how I would tell the story, what words I would use and how I would describe the situation.

I guess that’s the thing with writers. They observe and write at the same time. Good thing I always have a notebook with me. So, I can write down all the details and things that I see. Or smell. Or feel. All the things I need to build a story.

Try to have new eyes on every journey you take. Whether it is at home or at the supermarket or a busstop: there’s a story everywhere! But you must have the right eyes to see it and an open mind to let it in.