My attempts at writing books began in the early 1990s, and my love for storytelling led me to enroll in a one-year full-time film school in 2004 to learn screenwriting and directing. Like many, I had nostalgic images of being a successful writer and director. Inspired by iconic figures from the past and the romanticized perception of the creative process, I envisioned a room with a nice window view, a typewriter (a computer in later years), a leather-bound notebook, and surrounded by stacks of paper. In film school, I saw myself positioned behind a film camera, peering through the lens to capture the essence of the scene unfolding before me. Of course, there were also the images of me sitting in a café, sipping coffee, lost in thought, scribbling notes, or sketching on storyboards on a napkin.

All these images came true, but their reality was not so romantic. My first book took years to complete and was published when I got engaged and prepared for a wedding and a new home. I worked on my short film thesis during the initial months of my first pregnancy. I was juggling a lot, and while hunching over a computer and hammering away at the keyboard, I had to quickly put my imagination to work. My mind was a constant whirlwind of language, rearranging and refining until the desired impact was achieved. It was a lot of work.

Since I started my writing career, I’ve published 16 books, one of which won an Eric Hoffer Book Award and two which have been turned into feature films. My two films have won over 40 international awards together. What contributed to my success in bringing my vision to life are many factors, but in this article, I will focus on four.

Have something meaningful to say

At the heart of every great writer and director is a powerful message or story they want to share with the world. To succeed, developing a strong voice and a unique perspective is crucial. Take the time to explore your interests, passions, and beliefs. Ask yourself: What stories do I want to tell? What messages do I want to convey? A clear understanding of your artistic vision will guide your creative decisions and help you connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Having something meaningful to say that will keep you going regardless of the results. For me, it was important to tell stories about my underrepresented and marginalized community, the Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonians who still speak Aramaic).

Constantly hone your craft.

Both writing and directing are crafts that require continuous learning, practice, and improvement. Successful individuals in these roles understand the significance of honing their skills. They read books, watch films, attend workshops, and study the works of other accomplished artists. Dedicate time to develop your writing skills, master the art of storytelling, and understand the technical aspects of directing. Embrace feedback and criticism as valuable tools for growth. Remember, mastery of your craft is an ongoing journey, and each project is an opportunity to push your boundaries and refine your skills.

Be patient. Everything worth doing takes longer than you think it will.

Value the contributions of your collaborators.

The writing process might be done alone, but then, at some point, the work reaches the hands of an editor, agent, publisher, and even a writing group, if you have one, to refine and polish your writing until it aligns with your creative vision. You must listen with an open mind and appreciate the time this person puts into your work.

The collaborative nature of filmmaking cannot be overstated. Writers and directors rely on a team of talented individuals to bring their vision to life. From actors to cinematographers, production designers to editors, every crew member plays a vital role in the success of a project. Successful writers and directors understand the importance of building strong relationships with collaborators. Treat everyone with respect, value their expertise, and create an environment where creativity and open communication can thrive. Collaboration is a two-way street, so be open to ideas and feedback from your team. You will elevate your work to new heights by fostering a supportive and collaborative environment.

Persistently pursue your dreams.

Rejection and setbacks are an inevitable part of any creative journey. As a writer and director, you will face numerous challenges and encounter people who may not share your vision or believe in your abilities. During these times, unwavering determination is a must. Use rejection as fuel to keep pushing forward. Persistently pursue your goals and seek opportunities to showcase your work. Develop a thick skin and learn from criticism without allowing it to deter your passion. Remember, every “no” brings you closer to a “yes.” Embrace the challenges as stepping stones on your path to success.

I was often told by others why this and that could not be done, yet I kept prodding on, knowing that this was my path of heart, and paths of hearts is itself the path of success.

Remember, to achieve greatness in any role is a demanding and rewarding pursuit. Embrace your unique voice, commit to lifelong learning, foster strong relationships, and maintain an unyielding spirit. By embodying these qualities, you will be well on your way to creating impactful and memorable stories that resonate with audiences worldwide.

Three Links:

5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Started (Authority Magazine)

Discussing Weam Namou’s new documentary, The Great American Family, her inspiration for storytelling, and what the future holds next for her.

Bringing an Iraqi American Perspective to the Big Screen: A Conversation with Weam Namou