The Myth of Writer’s Block — 3 Ways to Manufacture Motivation

Hello again, boys and girls. Today I’d like to rap a bit on a topic that’s always been close to my heart — writer’s block. Particularly, why it’s a load of crap! Or at least, how the mere existence of the term is something people use to fall back on when they’re feeling less-than-motivated. But without contributing anything I’d just be bitching, so at the end are three tips guaranteed to help the words flow when you’re feeling funky (pro tip: it works for pretty much anything, not just writing!).

Let’s get started!

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Writer’s Block, Schmiter’s Shlock

How many TV shows are currently on the air? In 2014, a whopping 187 TV shows were in production at some point. All of those shows had writers. How many of those lavishly paid individuals do you think got to take a day off because they just weren’t ‘feeling it?’ If you guessed none, you were probably right (unless they faked the flu). 187 shows means 187 teams of writers working on runs of up to 23 episodes per season! You know how they did it?

They came to work.

The World is Run by Those Who Show Up

I love that quote, because damned if it ain’t the truest thing in the world sometimes. Have you ever gone to a meeting where only two or three people cared enough to be there? You could be setting an agenda for an entire year, and still most people can’t be arsed to call an Uber and show up to a meeting. There are scores of comedy writers trying to find success in their craft, and the one thing universally acknowledged by professionals is to write every day. It doesn’t have to be great, or even good. Ernest Hemingway famously said:

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and you definitely can’t write a spec script without putting words on the page.

Nick Santora, Creator of CBS hit SCORPION, spent a week of 12-hour days writing one of his scripts. And he was a lawyer at the time.

The great book ‘How Google Works’ talks about how their ideal employee, the smart creative, has a bias towards action. When you’re planning a project or developing a pilot, it’s so easy to get bogged down in the what-ifs, but all that’s really important is that you do something. Ideas are a dime a dozen — execution is where success lives.

Manufacturing Motivation in 3 Easy Steps!

Whether you’re Hemingway or Hammurabi, at the end of the day, we’re all human. So why not take advantage of your human nature to help build some motivation when you’re feeling sluggish? Here’s a couple of tips on how.

  1. Create a workspace only for writing

    Your brain has a little thing going for it called state-dependent memory, which basically means it can retrieve memories best when you’re in the same state as when you learned the info. Ever walked into a room and forgot why you came in there? Your

    Hemingway taking advantage of state-dependent memory

    Hemingway taking advantage of state-dependent memory

    brain is great at sectioning off the universe, so why not create a space that just screams ‘WRITE!’ Create a space dedicated to writing so that your brain instantly goes into writing mode when you plop down there with pen and paper.

  2. Listen to something on repeat

    Remember Pavlov’s Dog from high school psych? He associated food with a bell, so all Pavlov had to do is ring the thing to get the dog salivating. Find a song (or short playlist) that you don’t mind listening to on repeat, and keep it on loop as you write. Before long, you’ll hear the first few beats of the first track and immediately get into the groove. I work best with orchestral music, like movie scores (or personal fave Two Steps from Hell that I’m listening to as I write this), but find whatever works for you and embrace it!

  3. Block out a writing time – and keep it!

    This is one you’ve probably heard before, but it’s so important that it bears repeating. Just like the previous two tips, this is all about creating a rhythm and pattern so that your body knows exactly when its time to write. Some people work best in the mornings, some in the evenings, some in the mid-afternoon, but clearing your schedule for even an hour to get your thoughts flowing is vital to building the writing habit.

A Bonus Tip

One last tip, at least one that works for me, is to write the early ideas on a piece of paper. The computer is way too linear of an input system for the nonlinear, scattershot bullshit that the brain likes to pull when conjuring up ideas.

How do you manufacture motivation?

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The Satirical Miracle — Why 2015 is the Best Year Yet for Comedy

A Comedic Resurrection

The year is 2014, and the sitcom is dying. Commercially successful but critically panned shows like THE BIG BANG THEORY rule the airwaves, and the epitome of the flipside of the commercial/critical coin, COMMUNITY, is on the verge of cancellation (again). Then the news finally comes in — NBC has dropped the beloved Dan Harmon sitcom.

Yet, barely 24 hours later, an unlikely hero, Yahoo Screen, picks up the show for a 6th season. Not satisfied with simply acquiring a new show, Yahoo then upped the ante by increasing the per-episode budget of the show.

Photo credit: rantlifestyle.com

A mostly unheard of distribution platform outspending a TV network for a killer sitcom? Whoulda thunk? Anyone?

If you’re scratching you’re head over what’s going to happen between TV and digital distribution over the next decade, then you’re like just about everyone else I know. However you don’t have to be a fortune teller to be able to know one thing: the need for quality content is growing rapidly. And who’s going to be there to create it?

Y – O – U

A Multi-Platform Comedic Revolution

“C’mon man…Star Lord!”

No matter what brand of funnies you write, there’s a niche for you in the growing, content-crazy world. You want to write for TV? Netflix is leveraging $1.5 BILLION dollars worth of debt to create new content. That’s enough to buy a couple dozen private jets. The alphabet soup of networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FX, and HBO) have already bought 42 sitcom pilots this season — and it ain’t over yet.  Any show made by any of these companies, once picked up, won’t just need one person. They’ll need a TEAM of writers, jokesters, to put together every single episode. So why not you?

Say features are more your thing — and why shouldn’t they be? Tentpole comedies have all the glitz and glam an aspiring writer can hope to be a part of. Maybe you’ll write the next GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (~$333m domestic gross), LEGO MOVIE (~278m domestic), or 22 JUMP STREET (~192m domestic).

Maybe you’re more interested in stand-up comedy. These days, plenty of stand-ups have podcasts, from the uber-popular Nerdist or Joe Rogan Experience, all the way down the line. There are no barriers to entry, and its pretty damn easy to monetize — a good way to make cash in between the plethora of open mics that are popping up all over the US.  Get to enough of those, and maybe Netflix will use some of its billions to produce your special — as it’s done for Chelsea Peretti, Patton Oswalt, Bill Burr, Iliza Shlesinger, and more!

Maybe you want to be write or host a late-night show? We’re at a tipping point right now, with a changing of the late-night guard. New hosts Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon have been crushing it in their particular positions, and longtime occupiers of the hosting chair David Letterman and Craig Ferguson are making way for Stephen Colbert and newcomer Jason Corden, respectively. Like with sitcoms, all of these changes mean one thing: the need for scores and scores of talented writers.

So How Do I Get in There?!

The best thing you can do to get in any writer’s room, open mic, or producer’s office is to WRITE WRITE WRITE. It’s the most trite advice and you’ve heard it a million times, but no one’s going to want to read your stuff unless it’s great. And it’s not going to be great until it’s been shitty a good couple (hundred) of times!

So start small — a sketch, a joke jotted down in a moleskine, a short script, a blog — but no matter what you’re doing, keep writing! We live in an information age, and these days people have instant access to most anything except an awesome, novel story, especially one with that makes them laugh out loud!

As the blog continues, I’ll be doing my best to figure out how to break into the world of comedy writing, breaking down scripts, seeing what networks are buying, and riffing on anything else that may be relevant to the scores of people like myself who want to make a living writing comedy.

What’ll you be writing in 2015?

 

 

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