It is my honor to welcome a phenomenal writer, friend, and all around great guy to guest blog today. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…
want to write, but I can’t. I woke up, showered, dressed, went straight to the
office, fired up the Mac, and then nothing.
in place, everything’s in order, all systems go.
the words won’t come.
you, this is not writer’s block. First, I don’t believe in writer’s block, but
secondly, that thing people call writer’s block is when you’re actively inside
your story, trying to come up with the next scene, or next line of dialogue, or
the denouement, and you’re stuck.
block is NOT sitting in front of your keyboard and doing nothing.
haven’t even opened my screenwriting program.
yeah. By the way, I’m a screenwriter. Television. I’m supposed to be writing a
pilot (for a new one-hour drama series) for Sony Pictures Television.
I’m not. Because I can’t write.
Is that accurate? No. More like – I am not writing. I mean, it’s not like I’ve
lost feeling in my fingers, nor have I gouged my eyes out upon seeing Joe
Konrath and a canine from Berlin. No. I’m just not doing it.
am not writing.
wife thinks I’m writing. Or I should say working. Because I have made it very
clear to her that I’m working even when it appears I’m not.
will take Burton Rascoe’s quote to my grave. I’m paraphrasing, but it’s
basically, “What no spouse of a writer will ever understand is that when the
writer is sitting, staring out the window, he or she is actually working.”
I’m not working. I’m not staring out the window. I’m staring at this very nice
fifteen inch screen.
am not writing.
is it that causes this? Why do some writers not write? I’m sure there’s dozens,
if not hundreds of theories. No, probably just dozens. But most of them are
excuses created by non-writing writers to feel better about themselves.
am not writing for one reason. I am not disciplined.
The single greatest asset a writer can own. Better than talent, better than
imagination, better than anything.
you have discipline, you are light-years ahead of anyone trying to write
without discipline. It is no coincidence that the best writers I know – both
prose and screen – are also some of the most disciplined.
it’s no coincidence that the majority of people I know who have yet to taste
any real success as a writer lack discipline. And most of them don’t even know
Stephen J. Cannell, of TV and multiple novels, is disciplined. Up at 4:30am
EVERY day, works out for an hour to an hour, showers, eats and WRITES. Every
Turner, one of the “hottest” screenwriters working in Hollywood, is up at
3:57am every day. Yes, 3:57. Like the gun. He writes for ninety minutes, then
works out for an hour, then back to the keyboard. Every day.
Pearson, Nora Roberts, Michael Connelly, John Grisham. Disciplined. I was going
to write “extremely disciplined,” but realized that is wrong. There are no
levels of discipline. You are or you aren’t. It is black and white, despite
what your ego may be telling you.
it’s not simply sitting in front of the keyboard every day. I do that and I
have the discipline of a six-week-old Irish Setter. It’s getting up at the same
time every day, and doing the same thing every day. A job. Sometimes I’m at my
keyboard at seven, sometimes eighty-thirty (like today), or sometimes nine or
even ten. If I did that at a regular job, I’d be fired.
should fire myself.
I were disciplined, I would have already finished that novel I’ve been
blathering about for three years. Three years. How embarrassing. If I were disciplined,
I would have finished the two film scripts I’ve “started.”
I am is lucky. Very lucky. To have made a reasonable success of myself without
discipline. Sure it can be done, but it will always bite you in that writer’s
ass you’re sitting on.
ass is being bitten right now. And not in a good way. My lack of discipline is
not only keeping me from writing today, but its domino effect on my entire
process is awful. Because my deadline doesn’t care. It continues toward me.
Like a freight train. And losing one day of writing means that when I do turn
in my pilot, it will not be as good as it could be. Because I lost roughly six
or seven hours that could have, most likely would have, been spent making the
this isn’t the first day I have not written. Because I lack discipline, this is
one of many, many days in my writing career that have been spent not writing.
Not staring out the window working, those days count as writing days. I mean
simply not doing anything.
hurt myself. I hurt my family. By not being disciplined. So, I’m trying to fix
it. Right now. This very second.
I’m writing this because, one, I love JT and would do anything for her. But
also because I’m trying to jumpstart myself. Get my bitten ass in gear. Because
writing something, anything, is better than not writing.
urge any of you reading this, pros or amateurs, to get disciplined. Force
yourself to learn discipline. Do whatever it takes. I’m trying. Believe it or
not, I am much more disciplined now than I have ever been.
writing more now than ever. This year I’ve written four short stories. Not just
bullshit stuff – they’ll all be published – two online, two in anthologies. I
also wrote the first draft of this pilot, and five drafts of the outline.
Freaking. Drafts. Of an outline.
Those of you that deal only with editors and publishers – trust me, when you
hit your knees tonight, thank your God that you don’t have to endure the seed
of Satan known as the studio executive. But that’s for another post, another
for six and half months, that ain’t bad body of work. For me, that is. For
Connelly or Cannell, it’s about a week’s work.
the stream-of-consciousness of this post. But as stated, I’m trying to work
through some heavy shit, people.
– right this very second – are getting a look inside the mind of a professional
writer. Not necessarily a very good one, but someone who gets paid lots of
dough for putting words to paper. And it’s a mess, isn’t it? If I knew you were
coming, I would have picked up a little.
yes, right now, you are in my mind, as I try and write my way out of this pit.
I literally have no idea what the next sentence will be – I’m just writing, so
as to keep from not writing. Because if you’re not writing what you should be,
then write something. Don’t check email, don’t read blogs, don’t download
Filipino bird porn. . . write. Anything.
have no idea how long this post will be. JT may find it so boring that she
edits sixty percent of it, and you may not even be reading this sentence right
now. But a writer is like a shark – if we stop moving, we drown.
must keep typing. It’s all muscle memory, like working out or anything else.
If, IF, you get disciplined enough where you write, not just every day, but AT
THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY, then it comes much easier. A disciplined writer does
not encounter days like I’m having. If you think you’re disciplined, but still
have days where you don’t write – guess what? You ain’t disciplined.
to be a good, successful writer? Do this:
Learn how to write. Meaning, learn all the rules of writing – so you will be
able to intelligently break them later.
Get disciplined. I have no idea if this can be learned or not. I’m inching my
way there, year by year. If I do learn discipline, I will let you know it can
unfortunately, I know there are some of you out there who only care about the
“successful” part, and not the “good” part. Well, you’re in luck. As the
shelves at Barnes & Noble can attest, you don’t have to be good to be
you do have to be disciplined. So, for you folks, skip the learning how to
write part, and just get disciplined.
almost had it. There was a pause of maybe thirty seconds or so between that
last sentence and “Oh.” I was almost out of it, almost ready to open my
it didn’t happen.
still here. You better put a pot of coffee on, grab your fuzzy slippers, and
order some kung pao, cuz we may be here a while. Let’s check back in with my
now I’m actively trying to think about my pilot. Even as I type this. I’m
thinking about my characters and where I left them. Thinking about what comes
next for them. If I can get my head inside their heads, I’ll be good to go.
of you who know me may be wondering where my music is in all this. Why not
crank the pilot’s playlist on your iPod and go? Yeah, well, I haven’t. Not one
note so far today. Why? Because I’m not disciplined. If I were, I would sat
down, opened up iTunes, and started writing.
I didn’t. I couldn’t do anything associated with writing this morning. Or, I
should say, I chose not to do anything. Like turn my music on.
I’m going to try it. After this sentence I will go and open my iTunes.
there. Bad Company by Bad Company is
playing now. The working title for my pilot is BAD COMPANY. Let me know what
you think of that title – because the studio execs hate it. Are they correct?
I’m too close to tell.
right, I’m just about where I need to be. Take heart – this is almost over. I
can feel it. If you’re thinking I should have put the music on hours ago, well,
like I said, lack of discipline.
and I can’t deny. . . Bad Company, till
the day I die. . . till the day I die.
for hanging with me through this. Thanks to JT and all at Murderati.
disciplined, people. It will make your lives much easier. Trust me.