Think Like a Student by Ron Moscovitz

A couple of days ago, I got an email from an M.F.A. student at U.S.C. He’d seen a few things I’d posted online, and asked if he could buy me a cup of coffee and pick my brain.

I said sure. What writer doesn’t like free coffee?

So we sat for an hour and chatted. He asked my advice on a career conundrum he’s involved in, and I shared a few war stories. “Very glad I did this, watch out for that, here are a few mistakes I made.” (That last category is, unsurprisingly, the largest, but hey – if somebody can learn from my experience and avoid my mistakes, at least they’ll have served some purpose.)

The student is, by all appearances, doing everything right: he’s interning at a pair of production companies even while in school, reading a ton of professional scripts, including some for coverage. He understands that this is a long-haul journey (although perhaps not just how long haul it can be. I have two friends who recently got their first WGA jobs … after over a decade of working on their craft). But then, at one point, he said something that made me smile:

“When I look back at where I was, how much I thought I knew, I’m a little embarrassed that I once thought I was ready.”

I could only reply: “Get used to that feeling.”

When I graduated from U.S.C., I was sure that I had it all down. Winning the Nicholl fellowship only confirmed that. Getting my first paid gig, ditto. Time and time again, I was sure that I all had it all figured out, only to see my craft and skill improve again.

And every so often, a new puzzle piece will fall into place again, and I’ll find myself saying, “Oh, surely I’ve got it down now!”

Except now I know better.

I fight that feeling. It can be hard – it feels like you spend as much time knocking yourself down as you do picking yourself back up – but the change in the quality of my work from when I thought of myself as an expert to when I think of myself as student is dramatic.

So I keep working at it. I keep trying to get better, every single day.

And when people ask me why my Monday nights are sacrosanct – can we do those drinks on Tuesday instead? – it’s simple: ScriptWrights, more than anywhere else, is where I get to be a student. And, therefore, it’s why I’m a better writer today than I was yesterday.

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