I’m coining a new phrase—“objective delusionalism.” It won’t stick, statistically speaking. There’s too much content out there. Too much noise. Getting a new idea to go viral and take hold is next to impossible, and when it does happen, it’s often luck that’s the culprit.
Even so, I’ve still got these visions in my head. Someone shares this article. An early adopter tries out the term on Twitter. Others drop it in passing amongst their artistically-inclined circles, and eventually, five or ten years from now, someone mentions it to me—with absolutely no idea of its origin.
That, in a nutshell, is objective delusionalism. It’s the secret. The oxymoronic mindset it takes to achieve in any pursuit in which the rewards are many and the opportunities few. NFL players, astronauts, and successful artists all have this. And so do professional screenwriters.
You want to write movies for a living? Hollywood produces about 600 a year. Most of those are based on pre-existing intellectual property: books, articles, video games. That obscure toy you got for your eighth birthday and forgot about three weeks later. Of the few based on original screenplays, well—most are written by established writers. Worse still, some 80,000 scripts are registered with the WGA every year. The chances that yours will make the cut? Roughly zero. Especially if you don’t already know someone. Sorry.
That’s the objective part. The brutal, harsh reality. But … all those established writers had to come from somewhere, right? They knew the “odds” when they started, even if they didn’t know anyone who could help them. They wrote and wrote and stuck it out, anyway, in the face of countless rejections. Most could’ve become surgeons in the time it took to break in, quit their day jobs, and get their first movies produced.
What were they thinking? How’d they know it would all be worth it? They just as easily could have crashed and burned and thrown away the best decade(s) of their lives. That happens. But for some stupid reason, they said, “Hey, why not me? My high school English teacher said my stories were really good. So did my mom. And hell, I’ve seen lots of movies.”
And then they wrote their first scripts and realized how terrible they were. They should’ve thrown in the towel, right then and there. But they didn’t. These poor, delusional souls asked objective questions like, “What would it take to get better?” And then they did those things.
They wrote and read and connected with other, stronger writers who could help them grow. They improved. A lot. They submitted to contests and the Black List and they did pretty well. They sent out queries. Got reads. And despite their work being objectively good, despite years wasted and countless sacrifices, nothing happened. They were devastated.
But then, they looked around. They realized there weren’t that many unsuccessful writers who’d put in as much work as they had. There weren’t that many who’d developed their craft to the same level. And so, against all better judgment, they kept going. They wrote more. Tried harder. Hustled. Developed their networks. And—
Something hit. They got repped. Maybe an option. Maybe both. They’d finally gotten that big break. Happy ending? Nope. The option lapsed. The producer ghosted them. They parted ways with their manager. The shame was so great that they avoided the topic with the few friends they had left.
They should’ve known better. They did know better. Yet they pushed forward anyway, letting their dream make a mockery of them. Maybe they quit for a little while. Maybe they quit for a long while, just like I did. But eventually, for reasons beyond all comprehension, they got after it once again, and gave it more than they ever had before.
I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know dozens of professional writers over the years. This blind tenacity is present in all of them. Make no mistake—our pursuit is not a logical one. But hell, someone’s gotta write this shit. Why not us?
My name’s Nathan Graham Davis and I’m an Objective Delusionist. I started out seventeen years ago as a naive kid with no connections. I broke in after seven or eight years, and two years after that, everything fell apart.
So, I quit. Thought I was done.
But for some stupid reason, I got after it again last year. And now, incredibly, I’ve signed with a great manager, I’m getting paid to work with cool, talented people, and against all odds, it’s looking like something I wrote may actually get produced.
Objectively, I know there are lots of ways for things to go south, but even so, every day, I picture myself getting a bucket of popcorn at my local theater, taking my seat in the center of my favorite row, watching the lights dim as I’m surrounded by my closest family and friends, and seeing the words, “Written by Nathan Graham Davis,” appear onscreen.
I’m not gonna tell you any of this makes sense. I’m certainly not going to suggest it’s good for one’s mental health. But if success is in your future, nothing I can say is going to stop you. You’ve already convinced yourself of the impossible and you’re taking proactive steps to achieve it.
Hey—welcome to the club.
*Feature photo by cottonbro (Pexels)