This is a guest blog post by Steven White, Story Editor on ABC's hit comedy series BLACK-ISH and founder of Script Coordinator University.
Writing. Many would say the worst part of being a writer is the physical, mental, and emotional work of getting the ideas in your head into a working script that someone else can read, make sense of, and hopefully, enjoy. For some, the process comes easy, but quality is hard to achieve; for others, fighting to finish a single page is a big step toward something great. No matter the process -- bathrobe and coffee, open air and laptop, or notepad and wherever possible -- the great equalizer for all writers is time. When will you have the time to write the thing that will get you to the next phase of your writing career?
Finding time to write is especially difficult for those struggling writers who spend most of their days in the bowels of a TV writers' office -- the writers' PAs, showrunners' assistants, writers' assistants, and script coordinators whose job is dealing with the writing of others. Waiting for others to get through the physical, mental, and emotional process of writing, so they can proof, copy, and distribute that work before they go home. Then, their energy sapped, they try to write their own great work.
I can say from experience, writing at the end of a long production day can be very difficult. You've likely wracked your brain with good ideas over your eight-to-twelve hours in the writers' room, looking for that one pitch that will get your bosses to look at you as more than a talking recorder. You've already had a long drive to and from the office, with LA traffic proving to be it own challenge. Once you get home to a free second of thought, you probably have those pesky life things like bills and family to deal with. Now with your remaining hour or two before you pass out to start your day over again, what sounds better: two hours of digging in to break your Fresh Off the Boat spec, or watching a couple episodes of Fresh Off the Boat?
Yes, the "end of the day" writing schedule is not ideal for people with production jobs. Or other day jobs outside of production, for that matter. With that said, here are three alternative options that could provide time to write:
1) Early Mornings -- Wake up two hours early, get that coffee or tea, and write until you'd normally wake up. This ensures that your brain is firing at its most rested, and its most undistracted. The only drawback is that if you're a night owl, getting up early will make you the worst type of person to deal with for anyone within striking distance. That, and the noise of your local garbage trucks.
2) A Working Lunch -- Most shows offer a break at lunch to eat and deal with whatever issues of the day have arisen, anywhere from half an hour to two hours in some cases. Rather than really examining the details of your Chinese chicken salad, you could use this time to write. A working lunch will be hard at first, but as you train yourself to write in smaller chunks, the quality of that work will improve.
3) Weekend Work Camp -- Now, if you're just starting a new project, a working lunch may not give you enough time to really dig in and find what you're going to work on next. For this, I recommend a weekend work camp. Schedule yourself a Saturday and build it like your regular work day -- even go into the office if possible -- and write your tail off. You'll reach a point of diminishing returns after a few hours, but this time might be the jump start that allows you to transition into options 1 and 2.
If you try any of these options, do yourself a favor and commit to each for a week before you say it doesn't work. By the fourth day (or weekend), you may look back at your progress and be amazed at how far you've come. Or frustrated. It's writing -- both are possible. The only constant? There's always more of it to do. So know yourself, know your body, and find the schedule that works best for you. Good luck!
For more information about breaking into writing, sign up for a writers' assistant or script coordinator training class at Script Coordinator University, an insider guide to the writers' office. In his seminars, Steven teaches all the skills and tricks he's amassed working in the writers' rooms of shows like Workaholics, Franklin & Bash, and Galavant. You'll learn many helpful tips and tricks, including how to proof and format scripts, take notes, run clearances, and make the move from "support staff" to "writing staff."