I don’t know if this is a post or a cry of despair. Don’t get me wrong, I love my busy season, but – oh my oh my oh dinosaurs – I am exhausted.
I just listened to the very good “Eat That Frog!” as an audiobook – because I don’t have time to read it – and found it full of practical advice. One excellent tidbit: stop doing things that don’t need to be done. Another: do the most important thing first. Both the epitome of common sense.
Clearly, I’m senseless, because I’m failing at both.
This blog, for instance, does not have to get written – and you can see how little I’ve managed to do over the last few weeks. Ditto Twitter. But I miss them! I miss reading other people’s blogs. I miss being part of the online writing community. This stuff may not be a must-do, but it gives me the juice to get the must-do done.
As for “most important first,” you may trust me when I say that having five different “most importants” guarantees constant guilt. No matter which gets done first, the others are always bleating that they deserve more time. My problem is that consulting wars with career and with writing and family and…
The one tip I am doing well on is finishing what I start. The idea is to touch things only once; complete them fully and be done. Obviously, my novel won’t fall into that category, but my daily writing quota does. It’s a philosophy that’s helping me get through things of medium size and importance and forcing me to set achievable goals on some of the bigger-ticket items.
If anyone has any insight into juggling writing with career and family – or handling the constant tug between multiple projects with more grace than I can muster – please feel free to share. Meanwhile, here’s a link to a smart post by Andrew Romine about writing discipline — “seat of the pants to the seat of the chair” — which works great for my novel, but is lousy for the laundry…
My super-talented friend Lisanne Sartor is in the AFI directing workshop. She’s raising money to shoot her short film, “Six Letter Word,” which she wrote and will direct. You can hear her talk about crowdfunding on The Lady Brain show or check out her Indiegogo site here. It’s a terrific script and a great project about an autistic boy and his flawed but tenacious mother who loves him just the way he is.
It’s also a smart brand.
Let me start off by saying that Lisanne didn’t deliberately brand her film. She just wrote the best damn script she could on a subject she’s passionate about. But what it has meant is that, when it comes to generating money and buzz, she doesn’t need to focus exclusively on the small segment of the population which either loves A) her or B) short films. She doesn’t blog only about the film or only about filmmaking. She widens her message and her potential audience because she shares her deep connection – to motherhood and to the challenges of autism – with every post.
Whether you’re writing a book or a film, build your work around your passions. Plug into the community of people who also share your interests or concerns. It’s not just about building a career, it’s about having a voice, about saying something that other people believe is worth hearing. There are a lot of people who feel voiceless – who *are* voiceless and underrepresented. Be their voice. Genuinely connect with your shared passion. Be their champion.
What are you passionate about, other than writing?
Television staffing season is at hand! This is my busiest time of year. I work with nonfiction writers, novelists and feature writers, but the bulk of the work I do is in television. Most of my clients are already staffed and looking to move up the ladder; some are pitching their own shows, but that’s a post for another day.
Right now, we are at the beginning of the TV sprint, when most of the doors are (mostly) open for writers of network TV shows. Are you ready?
– Do you have a spec for an existing show?
– Do you have a second spec (ideally a pilot) for when they ask, “What else have you got?”
– Do you know what you do well – and can you say it in a friendly, clear manner?
– Do you have enough relationships to open some doors for you? (These may or may not include an agent and a manager, but should include television professionals who know and like your work.)
If the answer to any of these is “No,” then you need to get cracking. If your answer to all of them is “No,” you now have your to-do list for next year.
I know, it looks exhausting, but it’s all part of the job. You will be writing in someone else’s voice (just like your spec for an existing show), while at the same time, they want to get to see you at your best as a writer (which you can show off in a pilot). They need to know how you’ll play with others (friendly) and what you will bring to the table in the writers’ room (hence your pitch of what you do well). And they desperately want people they can count on; whose recommendations are they going to trust? Those of their friends, of other people who work in the trenches, who get what it’s like to write and shoot a television show every two weeks (or less) for months on end.
Get good at these things. There’s a lot you’ll learn on the job; this is what you need to do well just to get a shot at the job.