Q-q-quit our day job? Yikes, what a terrifying thought. And yet there comes a time when a person’s gotta do what a person’s gotta do. This particular TVWriter™ minion has been teetering on the edge of making that decision for awhile now. Thanks to the following article, I’m much better equipped to go for it now:


First Steps to Becoming a Full-Time Screenwriter
by Cary Tusan

I quit my day job – not because I’m leaving to go to another company, or because there’s a job offer. No siree Bob. To write. That’s right, to spend my days writing and being creative.

There comes a time, a crossroads, in every writer’s life to “take the blue pill… or take the red pill.” One thing is for certain, it’s not an easy choice. Neither is deciding if yesterday’s t-shirt passes today’s sniff test. I took the red pill, but luckily I didn’t wake up naked in a tub of goo with a giant tube shoved down my throat. Instead, I woke up in bed after my last day on the job and thought “So, now what?”

Here’s what I learned in my first couple weeks of writing.

1) Give yourself time to decompress. Don’t put in your head that you have X number of days, months or years to “make it happen.” You are already making it happen by focusing on the writing. The decompression is all about adjusting, and despite what others might say or think, it’s not being lazy. I’m a TV writer, so what I did was spend time to catch up on TV. Not Mob Wives, Real Housewives of Whatever, or any other Wives. I’m talking about scripted shows that are in the same genres that I’m writing, such as  Episodes, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Black-ish. It’s relaxing and research, really.

Hike or go out of town, even for a day. There’s a whole world out there to experience. A world filled with strange, interesting people to write about: a writer’s goldmine.

2) Stay busy. Don’t do busywork, but go out and meet people. Once everyone knew that I was leaving to go write, I scheduled coffee, lunch, or drinks. Whether it was business or personal, it was all positive. There’s something freeing about meeting someone you know in the middle of the day during the week. I was lucky to arrive early for coffee, as everyone in Hollywood also has the same idea, so seating is at a premium.

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LB: The April TVWriter™ Advanced Workshop has One Opening

lbwriterbiggerTonight is the last meeting of the 148th session of TVWriter™’s Advanced TV & Film Online Workshop. (At least, I think that’s the official name. Official names have, I admit, never meant very much to me.)

148 sessions? Over a dozen years? I’d better try not to think about that because if I start seeing what I’ve been doing as any kind of rut my Normal Life Avoidance System might kick in and…well, then there’d never be a 149th session.

Right now, though, there is. And the 149th Advanced Workshop AKA the April Edition will start two weeks from tonight, on the last day of April, so maybe we should call it the May Workshop? But then people will start writing in demanding to know “What happened to the April Workshop?” so….

But I digress. The bottom line here is that there’s room for 1 more student in the class, so if you’ve been thinking about joining us, or were in the Workshop but left and now want to come back, hey, now’s a good time.

The Advanced Workshop costs $140 and meets every Thursday night for 4 weeks starting April 30th. There’s probably a whole bunch more that you want to know, though, so email me or head on over to the Advanced Online Workshop Page ASAP so we can properly anoint a new writing messiah.




How You Sabotage Your Creativity – Daily

What? You don’t think you do? Really? Even our Beloved Leader LB found himself regularly cramping his own style in at least two of the ways listed here. (Hint: “You Beat Your Head Against a Problem Without Taking Breaks” and “You Stay Within Your Comfort Zone and Isolate Yourself,” but don’t tell him you heard it here.)

So, c’mon, which of these traps do you keep getting caught in?

by Thorin Klosowski

giphyWe often talk about the simple things you can do to boost creativity and create more of those magical eureka moments, but many of us tend to sabotage creativity more than we cultivate it. Here are some of the self-sabotaging things you’re probably doing every day.

You Beat Your Head Against a Problem Without Taking Breaks

When you get stuck on something, it’s easy to just pound your head against the problem until you break through, but science suggests that’s a terrible approach. Over the years, study afterstudy shows that taking breaks and embracing boredom is key for generating new ideas.

Why? It’s pretty simple: when you take a break and get a little bored, that signals to your brain that you need fresh ideas, which spurs creative thinking. Call it daydreaming, letting your mind wander, or whatever else, but when your brain does it, it’s approaching problems from a new angle. When you’re bored, you want to stop being bored, and that means your brain looks for new solutions, which is why some of our best ideas come in the shower.

This happens because brains have a couple of different modes when it comes to this stuff, a “focused mode,” where you’re learning new things or working, and a “diffuse mode” where you’re more relaxed. It turns out we’re more creative when we’re in the “diffuse mode.” Various studies have shown we’re more creative in this diffuse mode, including when you’re groggy,asleep, and a little drunk.

The same goes for breaks. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology shows that something as simple as a walk can boost your creativity and other studies have suggested the same thing (exercise may help too). We’re not sure why this is the case, but walking likely boosts your mood a little while also letting your mind wander away from work, which helps you push through those creative blocks.

Regardless of how you do it, take more breaks throughout the day. Even a nap can help boost your creative output if used correctly.

You Stay Within Your Comfort Zone and Isolate Yourself

It’s pretty easy to stuck in a comfort zone where you’re not experiencing anything new. While that’s helpful for efficiency, it kills your creativity in all kinds of ways. When you stick within your comfort zone, you also tend to isolate yourself off from the rest of world. When you do that, you’re not creating new experiences, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, or challenging yourself. This kills your creativity quicker than you might think.

For example, speaking with researcher Adam Galinsky, The Atlantic points out that travel and cultural immersion are key in keeping the brain mind creative:

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New ideas! Well want to get them, even if we can’t necessarily sell ’em to others. (Cuz new ideas are – ooh – scary, don’tcha know?) But this very special kind of creativity doesn’t necessarily come easy. What to do? What to do? (Hint: Read on!)

by Jane Porter

breaking-throughThe moment a great idea or solution hits you can feel like magic—like it’s been delivered whole to you by some divine being. We all hope for those moments. But what ends up happening, more often than not, is quite the opposite—we’re floundering and stuck on a problem, desperate for one of those magic breakthroughs to pull through.

Of course, there’s nothing magic about it. “Struggle and insight go together,” says David Perkins, research professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “You are not likely to achieve an insight, unless you’ve struggled with the problem some.”

In other words, breakthrough thinking is usually preceded by a lot of dead ends and bad ideas. “If you look historically at breakthroughs, the story is never just about the key insight. It’s also about what led up to it and what followed it,” says Perkins. “Typically that involves a lot of work.”


Typically, the challenges we are faced with fall into one of two categories—a technical challenge or an insights challenge. A technical challenge requires you to work through technicalities to arrive at a solution. “It’s not easy, but it doesn’t feel like an insight,” says Perkins. “It feels like climbing a mountain handhold by handhold.” An insights challenge, on the other hand can feel a lot murkier. “It’s more of a gap to get across verse a cliff to climb,” says Perkins.

Of course, arriving at a solution isn’t a matter of deciding whether you’re faced with one type of challenge or the other. “Most problems out there are a mix,” says Perkins. But trying to better characterize the challenge you’re faced with is a first step in taking a more informed approach to the solution.

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How to Be Braver In Your Everyday Life

…Which is especially important if your everyday life is the writing life. Cuz nothing we can think of takes as much raw courage as facing that terrifying foe the blank page.

Well, almost nothing. Anyway:

courageby Patrick Allan

We all wish we could be a little braver, but fear can still permeate into our day to day activities. It keeps us from taking action, progressing at work, and even causes us to procrastinate. Here are a few ways to boost your bravery and take every day on with courage.

Bravery is mental toughness, knowledge, and confidence all wrapped up into one trait. With bravery you can make tough decisions, take action without wasting time, and approach uncomfortable situations comfortably. You need bravery when you take on new tasks at work, confront others who rub you the wrong way, and even when your work suffers because you’re afraid of doing something less than perfect. When you become braver, you become more capable of taking action and handling the things that come your way.

Bravery is not something you’re born with, though, and it’s not something you can acquire overnight. Like all desirable traits, it’s something you work at developing. Joel Runyon at Impossible HQ breaks the development process down plainly. If you want to be braver, you need to:

  1. Be terrified of something.
  2. Do it anyways.
  3. Be moderately less scared than the first time you do it.
  4. Repeat

Otherwise there’s only one alternative:

  1. Be terrified of something.
  2. Do nothing
  3. Still be terrified

Of course, there’s more to it than “doing it anyways.” It’s important to note that bravery is just as much about understanding risks as it is about taking them on. Jumping into something blindly isn’t necessarily brave; it can actually be quite foolish. What bravery really comes down to is learning how to repeatedly turn uncertainty—which is what drives most of our fear—into approachable, calculated risk.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to be brave with something if you’ve never been exposed to it. By doing what you fear, little by little, you slowly, but surely take away the uncertainty of it all.

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How Do TV Writers Develop Episode Plots?

The following is a more pragmatic take on the whole coming up with TV ideas thing. What do you think?

Kate Powers' coolest credit - writing RECTIFY

Kate Powers’ coolest credit – writing RECTIFY

by Kate Powers

It’s not uncommon for a writing staff to use a visual reference tool to track the breaking of one or more episodes. I’ve pretty much only worked in rooms where we favored 3-by-5 index cards on 3-by-4 cork boards, but many shows prefer white boards, or in some cases magnetized white boards and dry erase “tiles” that function like cork boards. A lot of the time, this is in addition to the near-constant note-taking of writers’ assistants.

It’s nearly impossible to hold all the ideas under discussion in your head for the week or two (or three) it takes to break an episode. When an idea lands, adding it to an external, physical list of known beats means that’s one less thing for writers to remember as they continue to discuss variation iterations. (Typically the most senior person—the showrunner, if she’s in the room, or her second in command if she’s not—decides if an idea has “landed,” but it’s usually pretty consensual. There’s a sense that the whole room likes that version and wants to see where it leads.)

Shows vary wildly in what they consider to be a “fully broken” story. Some rooms won’t send an episode to outline unless the scenes are broken almost down to the level of line-by-line dialogue. (Faithfully recorded by the assistant, of course, and then referred to by the assigned writer when he or she sits down to write.) Other rooms—usually those where time is at a premium and room time is limited to a few hours a day, or possibly just a week or two at the start of pre-production—content themselves with a day or two of discussion per episode, landing on act breaks and major character reveals, but leaving the rest to writers’ ingenuity.

Many writers, particularly those who come from features or don’t have a lot of TV experience, prefer the latter style of breaking, because it gives them more freedom to explore the stories they want to tell. But since every episode of a show has to both “feel like the show” and fit into the established season arcs, scripts tend to get more rewritten when they’re based on underbroken stories. Television is a deeply collaborative medium, and although I readily understand why writers want to put their own stamps on the material, at the end of the day, our job is to serve the show and the audience. For that reason, I tend to prefer breaking a story in the room down to the nobs on the cabinet, so I can deliver something that doesn’t generate more work for my boss—but that’s just how I’m wired.

Shows also differ in their approaches to breaking stories. I have assistant friends who pitched and sold stories on their shows—and became writers in the bargain—because they worked on shows where magicians using their skills to pull off high-stakes heists was an entirely viable starting point. In my own career, the almost universal jumping-off point has been: “Where is X’s head at?” and then working backward from a character or characters’ internal emotional or psychological states to thrust them into the worst possible situations. Once in a while, you’ll come in with an image or a dream about the characters, and those pitches are always welcome, but the next sentence is always: “OK, so how do we build a bridge to that?” And then we start from “Where is X’s head at?”

It’s a very tentative, brainstorm-y process, where you say things like “Well, what if … ” and “Yeah, or a maybe just a slightly different version, like … ”  A lot of ideas get thrown out. And sometimes you pitch a line of dialogue: “Dave’s like, ‘No, that’s not my job!’ ” and someone else turns to you says, in character: “Who’s job is it, then, Dave?” and before you know it, the two of you are having a conversation in the voices of those two characters. At those moments, I’m always very grateful for the writers’ assistant, because God knows I am incapable of actually hearing what I’m saying—I’m too busy pretending to be someone else.

Found on Quora