Recently, I received a really nice phone message from a friend thanking me for giving her some help on a project. It’s the kind of call that makes your day, but I should really be thanking her because she gave me a great lesson on two fronts: the art of rewriting and stick-to-it-ive-ness. Here’s what happened:
My friend has a screenplay that she’s excited about with a role that seems tailor-made for a well-known actor. Along with the screenplay, a synopsis, and her bio, she needs to send a transmittal letter. Since this is the first thing the actor will see, it’s key: it has to be concise, yet compelling enough to persuade him to pick up her script and read it. She asked me to take a look at a draft of a letter while we were traveling and I gave her a few ideas.
Here’s what happened next: She spent the next four hours or so writing and rewriting that letter non-stop. By the time she was finished, she had a sheaf of paper half an inch thick of rejects — and a letter she felt really happy with. Not only was she totally open to suggestions, but she was perfectly willing to put in long hours to come up with just the right style, tone, and message for her note. Watching her writing away with total concentration, determined to produce a polished, persuasive letter by the time we arrived home was truly inspiring!
It reminded me of an interview I did many moons ago for my book, How to Succeed on Your Own with an award-winning screenwriter. One made-for-TV movie that won her an Emmy was the product of three years of work and a dozen rewrites. During the process, she became frustrated more than once, but somehow she found the stamina to stay with it and see that her original vision arrived on the screen relatively intact. Sometime soon, I’m going to have to tackle a major rewrite of my play on Sojourner Truth. I know there’s a lot of work ahead — I just hope I can summon up the same kind of drive and focus.