Fear and Loathing in the TV Writer’s Room

This guy’s definitely got it right. Doing the TV writing thing is a real bitch – and it gets more stressful the higher you climb. Aaargh!

Betcha still want to do it, though. Are we right? Huh? Anyway:

by David Silverman, MA, LMFT

“The TV industry is uglier than most things.  It is perceived as a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.”

Hunter S. Thompson, fromGeneration of Swine:  Tales of Shame and Degradation in the 80?s. 

writers-bloc-chick-dub-225x188Hollywood careers can lead to isolation, especially writing, which is essentially a lonely job, staring at a computer screen, crafting scenes, a story, and dialogue that doesn’t entirely suck.

Staring at a computer screen all day, facing the blank page,  writers  can easily become frustrated, resentful, and even depressed.

Normally in the world of the half-hour TV comedy a writer gets two weeks to write a first draft of a script. On “Dilbert,” the TV series that satirized “cubicle life”, we would have story meetings on Friday nights.  Once a story had been broken, the writer was sent off to write the sixty page script and turn it in the next Monday morning.

Two days!?   Panic set in.  After 48 hours of writing, judgment was passed on the script by the producers.  If the producers hated it, you had to deal with the rejection and worry about your job, too. If you’re lucky, and they liked it, you got a shot at doing the next rewrite.  Add job insecurity and rejection to the list.

I won’t deny all these stressors had an impact on me. At various times, I was depressed, anxious, fearful, frustrated, and just about lost even caring about writing at all.

On one show, the writers were treated so badly,  when the producers finally told the writing staff we were cancelled, I said “Thank God,” out loud.

How do you cope with all these issues while you’re trying to write? Let’s take isolation. Isolation can be dealt with in various ways. If you’re on a staff show, you can set smaller writing goals, and when you’ve accomplished them, go to lunch with the other writers. At least you’ll feel like you’re part of a group.

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