James Gunn is an American writer, director, producer, actor, and musician, currently he is most well known for writing the script for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. He is so talented, I am sure there will be many more projects that he will be known for in what will be a long and successful career.
A few days ago, he posted some great advice on his Facebook page. I am sharing it today and you can also see the original here.
Pro Tip: FINISH WHAT YOU START
When people ask me for advice on writing or directing, or almost any project, “finish what you start” is the first thing I tell them. As a young man I’d start a novel or a script or a film and it would all be going amazingly well, and then I’d hit a snag… something that stopped me. Maybe I was judging the project, or I lost my passionate fuel, or I became distracted by a newer, shiner project. And so I just stopped and moved on. I didn’t think the problem was me; I thought it was the projects I was choosing. I thought I would eventually find the right project that would fix everything for me, that would be THE project that would propel me to success.
I was in my twenties and becoming discouraged. I was seeing people around me, who I thought were less talented than me, getting film deals and TV deals. It wasn’t because I was lazy – I was often writing for fifteen or sixteen hours a day. Why wasn’t I doing as well as others?
And one day it came to me in a burst of inspiration: Perhaps the missing ingredient was incredibly simple – I just needed to finish whatever I started. There was nothing wrong with the projects I had been choosing. The problem was me: I just hadn’t followed them through. Any of them could have been “the one.”
Fear was what most often kept me from completing something. What if it wasn’t good enough? What if I put my heart into something and put it out there and I looked stupid? I realized I had to act despite my fear if I wanted any of the benefits of artistic achievement (which include artistic achievement itself).
So I started finishing whatever I started. It became the primary goal of my writing. And it was only a matter of months before everything in my life changed dramatically, both in terms of how I felt about myself, and in terms of how the world treated me in regards to my career.
Finishing what you start – plowing ahead, no matter what – is what separates amateurs from professionals. It’s what transformed me from a wannabe, kinda writer into an actual writer.
Obviously, not everyone who finishes what they start in every endeavor will be successful – natural ability and experience and personality make up a huge part of success. But I do think it is the most important aspect of being successful. (And, contrary to popular belief, “having connections” is NOT an important aspect of being successful – of all my successful friends in the film industry, maybe two were born with connections.)
As writers and directors we have to be self-starters, because no one will hire us with nothing to show for it. And, if you’re a beginner, finishing what you start is the quickest way to improve. You learn a lot more about writing from completing a screenplay than you do from writing the first thirty pages of ten screenplays.
Finally, if you’re an open-minded and honest person, finishing what you start is a way to learn if you want to pursue a career in whatever field you’re considering. Maybe you aren’t that great at the job you’re considering – but you’ll never know that unless you try.
I don’t know what’s propelled me to write all this this morning – perhaps it’s a conversation I had this weekend. But enough of Facebook for me, as I have a project I need to get to finishing.
I wish you all luck and perseverance.
Have a lovely day, james