In an earlier question about finding confidence as a writer, you stated: “Most good writers weren’t popular growing up.” While this is true in my case (that I wasn’t popular growing up), do you think also being an unpopular adult (which I am as well) could make a GREAT writer? Or just a whiny, self-obsessed loser who writes nothing but whiny, self-obsessed drivel (which I’m starting to suspect I do)?

–Dave
Albany, NY

Just to be clear, I don’t think childhood unpopularity is a golden ticket to success as a screenwriter. I would never give my child a bad haircut, or rub him with cat litter, just in the hope that he’ll win the Oscar when he’s 40. There are many, many unpopular children who grow up to be terrible writers. Maybe, Dave, you’re one of them.

Or maybe not. The simple fact is, one can’t judge a writer’s talent based on how many Friendsters he has. But I would posit that at least in terms of screenwriting, being extremely unpopular is a detriment. Unlike, say, a novelist, the screenwriter has to put on a clean shirt and meet with executives, humoring them when they offer insipid notes and feigning interest in their personal lives. These delicate social skills are hard to pick up if you frighten small children and annoy the elderly.

It’s this social component of screenwriting that explains why some less-talented writers (the proper term is “hacks”) seem to have undeserved success. They’re good at being screenwriters, if not particularly good at screenwriting.

My advice to you, Dave, is contrary to what I’d tell most writers. Don’t write about what you know, since that seems to be limited to whiny self-obsession. Instead, write like the kind of writer you wish you were: bold, courageous, unafraid to piss people off. Think Hemmingway, but with marketable good-looks.

In summary: Pretend you’re confident. Eventually, you will be.