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May 18, 2016

Brutally Honest Advice for Writers

May 18, 2016

I oddly always use Summer as a time to get a massive chunk of work done. It’s the start of development season for network television here in Los Angeles; the days are longer meaning more sunlight to convince me it’s not time to stop working, and – the real reason – I didn’t get a staff writing job on a network television show so I’m extra motivated to find ways to make money.

That’s an entire paragraph to disclaim the fact that I wrote this post for myself but figured it might benefit you, too. Here is my hard-to-hear, brutally honest, a little bit scary advice for writers.

You need to be writing more

You should be writing every day. That doesn’t mean you need to sit down at 9am and type until 5pm. In fact, most great creatives only work for three or four hours a day according to this book called Daily Rituals that made me feel so much better about my life. This isn’t about page count; it’s about the fact that writing is a muscle so the more you use it the stronger it gets. After days away from my computer it is painful for me to get a few paragraphs done. Olympic athletes work out every day for a reason. Be an Olympic athlete, of words. 

Write what you need to write

This is the hardest for me to advise (again, to myself) because I remain in the business of writing things for money. How can I just waste my time writing my passion piece when I need to be writing more freelance articles? is something I have cried to R once or fifteen times (this month). Because if you’re only writing for money you will grow to resent writing. Because writing what you’re passionate about breeds better writing that will help all of your work. Because you deserve to write what you need to write. The list goes on. Please write what you need to write, even if you can only squeeze it in for 30 minutes a day.

An agent is not the answer

To be clear, an agent is part of the answer to how am I going to make money off my writing but they are not magical fairies that come into your life and solve all of your problems. You have to do the work. You have to be prepared to sell. You have to guide your own career in the direction you want it to move. An agent is just one piece of the team.

You cannot care what your neighbor/mother/brother/shrink thinks

Correct: you can care (I sure as hell do) but I really encourage you to stop. At some point you’re going to offend someone. That’s only logical because at some point you’ve probably been offended. You lived. They’ll live. My rule is to be as honest as I need while still being as respectful as I want. And my new rule is to write things that push those limits. Things that are challenging, surprising and moving are memorable. Think of your own favorite movies, TV shows, books. I guarantee you they’re not safe tales with not POV and characters that everyone just adores.


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You need to do more than write

The first thing that launched my writing career was a series of one-act plays that I staged. The thing I do that gets the most attention right now is my storytelling series, Sunday Night Sex Talks. I try to back that up with great writing for people to read but these other things help build my brand and – honestly – keep me sane. Initiative speaks volumes, I’ve learned. These extra pursuits don’t have to be writing centric. Think of them as creative adjacent. Love music? Grab some friends, call a bar and start to curate a music night.

It’s show friends and show business

Listen. I feel like a jerk saying this because the bottom line is that it’s all about the writing. I firmly believe that great work will gain notice. But the line above the bottom line is that you need to know people to see, read and share that great work. You don’t need to be an Entourage cast member about it (does that ancient reference still make sense?), just find ways to get involved in the creative community. Options: join a writing group, take a writing class (shameless plug: I teach some!), volunteer for an organization that focuses on writing (like the amazing Young Storytellers!).

Finally, it’s okay to quit

I hope you’re just quitting for a little bit until you save money/gain confidence/realize this is your only real passion. The point is that you’re allowed to be frustrated and walk away. I’ve done that with projects over and over again. THIS IS HARD WORK. Trying to remind yourself so you stop expecting genius. This is also a very, very hard time to be a writer. Pay is lower than ever, when it exists at all. Content is more focused on the lowest common consumer than ever. The Kardashians are keeping an entire TV network afloat. Know that going in and let it remind you that you’re fighting an uphill battle. But I’ll leave you with this final quote – and the full permission to watch A League of Their Own today, as soon as you finish your writing.
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For More Like This Check Out:

The Best Writing Spots in L.A.: 2015 Edition

5 Ways That Storytelling Helped My Writing

My Soapbox Speech on Giving Your Writing Away For Free

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