Scott Myers on Glorious Failure as a Screenwriter

Scott Myers of the excellent Go Into the Story blog today shared his thoughts on success and failure as a writer, and how the two aren’t as far apart as you might think. He writes:

When legendary football coach Vince Lombardi would speak in public, he rarely strayed far from two closely related subjects: success and failure. One quote I’ve always remembered is this one:

“In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”

It seems to me this embodies a mindset writers would do well to embrace for it re-frames the prospect of failure: Instead of fearing it, why not look at it as a necessary possibility whenever we strive to create something great?

I was reminded of this by a comment in an interview with Joel and Ethan Coen about their movie Inside Llewyn Davis. They were discussing their attempts to figure out a song Davis, played by Oscar Isaac, would sing at a critical moment in the story. Here is how Ethan remembered it:

Oscar was already cast and we still didn’t know the song we were going to use. Oscar had some input into it, and he wanted a very bluesy, showy Dave Van Ronk song. And we thought, “No, that’s not right for this.” But even the wrong thing can be good to hear, because it leads to a conversation. Somebody says the wrong thing, and you get to react to it and decide, “Okay, why is that wrong?” And it helped us to figure out what might be right, and that’s how we remembered the song we ended up using, “The Death of Queen Jane.”

Later in the article, Myers astutely comments:

you can even look at the entire exercise of writing a story from a macro perspective: If your story fails, whether aesthetically or commercially, you will have still won.

You have won because you finished what you started.

You have won because you have fought back the voices of cynicism and distraction.

You have won because you tapped into your creative potential.

You have won because you responded to the moment with the courage to write.

And you never know. You might have had to write this ‘failure’ precisely in order to write the next story which could succeed.

Read the full article at Go Into the Story.

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