Yesterday, I was talking with a colleague about a project I’m considering writing. It would be an adaptation of a very successful series I’ve long admired, and falls in a genre that’s comfortable to me. Even better, the studio really wants to make it, so it wouldn’t be pushing a boulder uphill.
But there are downsides that keep it from being a no-brainer.
Commensurate with its high profile, the property comes with a lot of strong voices and opinions. And it would be a tremendous time commitment, which would prevent me from working on some other long-simmering projects.
So, should I pursue it? My colleague asked a question inspired by Marie Kondo’s book and Netflix series:
“Does it spark joy?”
She sort of meant it as a joke,1 but it was exactly the right question. It clarified everything.
Some projects really do spark joy. You feel it from the first moment you start thinking about the idea. For me, these projects include Charlie’s Angels, Go, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, plus an unannounced movie I just turned in.
Yes, they were all exhausting slogs at some point. Work is work. But when I compare them to other assignments with equivalent pay checks, the difference is stark.
So: does this new project spark joy?
Not really. It sparks curiosity and nostalgia. It would cool to work on it, and a very high-profile assignment. But if I didn’t get the job, I wouldn’t miss it. Which is exactly why I shouldn’t pursue it. The studio will find another writer who dreams about the chance to tackle that adaptation — or at least fakes it convincingly.
As a screenwriter, you often don’t have luxury of being so choosy. I went after a lot of projects for which I was faking that spark, especially at the beginning of my career.2 As I talk about on the most recent Scriptnotes, there’s no shame in hustling to get work.
But it’s also important to recognize when you need to stop hustling. To stop hoarding. To let some things go.