Banish the word amateur, and give yourself insomnia

John August, the brilliant screenwriter behind Big Fish and Go (among others), said this to a graduating class of filmmakers the other day:

The one thing you won’t be is an amateur. I want you to banish that word, because you need to treat everything you do from the moment you walk out the door as a professional. This is now your job.

That means doing your best work at all times, even when it doesn’t seem to matter. You may feel like you’re not getting graded. You are. It’s just that no one is telling you what score you got.

My last piece of advice is probably the one most likely to induce insomnia. Every night when you go to bed, ask yourself: What did you do today to get closer to your goals? That’s a hard question to ask. Feel free to beat yourself up, because no one else will anymore. That’s the best and worst thing about graduating — it’s the end of the systematic evaluation of your progress.

Like this:



Are you that somebody?


Ordinary vs. extraordinary


  1. Profound words. I like it.

    • Todd Newton’s recent blog post: The Ninth Avatar – Evolution of a Cover

  2. Neha

    Great words! I think it rings true in anything…I was once told that in complacency in industry or in academia is bad and that you always have to think to yourself, “Am I good enough now?” The answer should always be “no”, that way you strive to be the best.

  3. Todd-
    Heh, if only they were mine.

    I think so too! And yeah, I struggle between wanting to congratulate myself (because I think it’s important to recognize one’s accomplishments) and wanting to motivate myself (because goodness knows I can get overly complacent!).

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