We only have so many hours in a day. It’s true. I checked.
You can do your own math, but if you’re the working type, if you’ve got a kid or a significant other to whom you ought to give at least the bare minimum face time, you’re probably looking at three or so hours each day in which you’re not working/eating/sleeping/driving. You’ve got a choice of how to spend those three hours. More often than not, it’s easy to just spend them in a passive state, letting it all wash over you like you’re half-buried at the beach.
Let’s see what I’ve got here: DVR’d eps of Better Call Saul, The League, Archer, and a dozen 30 for 30s. At least ten Spotify albums I want to dive deep into. A good 12 hours of podcasts, with more arriving in the queue every hour. Hundreds upon hundreds of articles-I-have-to-read saved in Pocket.
And Christ, that doesn’t even account for the actual physical objects, the books and magazines and video games and what-have-you stacked up in my office. Some of it’s work, sure, but much more of it is just Stuff, stuff to be consumed. I’d bet you’re the same; the Internet is a vast Vegas buffet of fascination, and we’ve all overloaded our trays.
Here’s the deal, though, and this is as much self-motivation as it is attempted inspiration: rather than trying to cut down this pile of Content, why not add to it? Why not create some of your own Stuff to add to this mad pile of nonsense? Sure, it’ll probably be awful — 90 percent of everything is — but awful work you’ve done yourself is still better than work never done.
So, yeah. Today, take a few minutes to create instead of consume. Those shows/songs/sites will be there tomorrow. It’d be badass if you had something alongside them.
There’s a strain of misbegotten thought that holds that writing is somehow a magical journey in which creativity bursts forth in boundless, rainbow-hued waves of inspiration and deathless prose. That kind of horsecrap perspective is usually held by people who want to be writers but haven’t yet realized that writing sucks. (Yes, it’s better than any other job out there … but it still sucks.) You fight with the keyboard, you fight with the blank page, you fight with your muse, you fight with your own sense of self-worth and confidence, you fight with your schedule, you fight with pretty much anything and everything around you in an effort to wring out a few more words of what you hope will reasonably amuse or interest someone. And more often than not, you lose most or all of those fights.
But when it gets done, then it gets read. And gets judged. And while I could hold forth on the value of, say, Internet commenters (and will another time), what gets scary is when it gets judged by people who are looking to pay you money for your work. Sure, getting your work edited is awful — I’ve thrown magazines across the room when I’ve read how my writing has been de-nutted — but it’s nothing compared to the sausage machine that is Hollywood.
My experience with Hollywood has so far been limited to two scripts and a handful of pitches, all of which have vanished as effectively as a corpse thrown down a mineshaft. But Louis CK has actually done something in Hollywood; when he talks of getting scripts made into TV series, the man knows whereof he speaks. And whereof he speaks is terrifying. Check out this recently-unearthed post on how his work went from idea to screen … and how many ways it could have gone wrong. Here’s an excerpt:
The first thing you have to do is come up with the general story line for the pilot, which you pitch to the executives, first studio, then network. Once the story is basically agreed to, you write an outline, which is just a blow by blow description of each scene in paragraph form, which should include all plot points and any funny details or jokes you already have. You then pass the outline in to the studio, which gives you notes. You take their notes and re-write it and if they are satisfied, you pass it in to the network. They now give notes which you re-write the outline with and then pass it in until the network and the studio are both happy. When that happens, it’s time to write the pilot script. So you go off and take as long as you need to churn out a first draft. I think this took me a couple of months. Only about three days were spent actually writing. The other fifty seven were spent driving myself nuts while ruminating about what the show is and how to do it.
Urgh. And it goes on from there. But hey, the man has created “Louie,” the single best comedy on TV today, so maybe he knows something after all. And if nothing else, the persistence he (and any writer) shows in getting an idea from your head onto the screen is admirable beyond measure. Check it out.
Here we are at the end of another year, my friends. Hope it’s been a good one for you and yours. Like every year, it’s had its share of exultant highs and crushing lows. And like every year, it comes to a close giving all of us a chance to revel in the good … and throw the bad out onto the freeway at high speeds.
Neil Gaiman does New Year’s wishes for his readers every year, and I’m going to bite off that and throw you a little goodwill this year as well. Hope your 2012 is filled with promise and creation, art and joy, friendship and serenity, and the kind of laughs that make you spit milk out your nose. I hope you swing for the cheap seats; I hope you throw it long even if nobody’s open; I hope you pull out the driver when everyone tells you to lay up; I hope you dive low in Turn 4 and go for the win.
Have a great New Year, my friends. And now, let’s see it off with a little mainlined inspiration, shall we?