There's a great article in this month's Vanity Fair about screewriter/playwright/director Zach Helm. He and I share an agency - CAA - but more importantly, a professional philosophy. Evidently, Zach's career, while successful, wasn't going where he wanted it to. So he sat down and wrote a Manifesto - the ethics and rules that should govern his creativity. Since he's abided his Manifesto, his career has really taken off.
As I've learned - you have to respect your creativity or it'll get tired of you and move on.
A few points that he emphasized I believe make for important lessons for young writers.
1. Write what interests you. Don't get penned into one genre or field. This year, I've worked on a new thriller novel, a historical sports drama screenplay, and a six-man play that tackles social issues. Each one, oddly, informs the other and allows me to approach all my writing with a freshness that I wouldn't have if I focused on, say, crime fiction alone.
2. When placing your work, don't decide merely based on immediate financial gain. Money works in odd ways - sometimes, if you take more cash up front, it's a short-sighted proposition. Better to place your screenplay with the right producer or director, for example - someone who gets the project and respects you. You'll be happier if you're demanding that your work is treated with respect - and to get that, you have to treat your own work with respect. Plus, you never know when or how something is going to pay off - either in a financial or creative windfall.
3. Don't take crap jobs for money. Rewriting gigs can pay a lot of money in Hollywood, but they can also drain you. Likewise with other projects that sail down the pipeline. The first question should always be: Is this a stimulating, challenging project? When you're focusing on your own writing, why do anything except what is of the highest interest for you? For the money? If you're after that, you'd do much better to go into commercial real estate or investment banking. If you're going to tackle the trials and tribulations of a writing life, follow your passions. Take risks. Go out on limbs. It's a field where - at least for me - playing it safe means creative stagnation.