Peggy Bechko: Nurturing Your Creativity

Nurturing-Creativity1by Peggy Bechko

Nurturing your creativity can be tough, yet creativity is the very heart of a writer’s storytelling.

You’ve probably read all sorts of things to do if your creativity is failing you. Maybe articles and even whole books on the subject. There is a huge well of information on writer’s block and creativity in general. Throw in a search on Google and you’ll see what I mean instantly. Well in about .41 seconds anyway.

Here’s the thing. There’s so much information it’s overwhelming, so I thought I’d just toss out my one little hot tip for the day.

Want to nudge your creativity? Then pick up a pen or pencil and write on paper. Really. It slows you down, it gives time for thoughts to form and there’s something soothing and inspirational about the scratch of pen or pencil across paper. It’s a way to get things moving and I have to say it, it’s one more reason it’s idiotic that people are talking about stopping the teaching of cursive writing in the schools. I mean who wants to print really really fast? Dumb. It’s also graceless. Writing (meaning cursive writing) on paper gives a ‘swing’ to your writing, a flourish to your words.

Now I’m not saying you should give up computers and write all the time with penstroke on paper. That would translate into yet another goofy idea that’s put out there for writers to help them beat the block or boost their creativity. If you’re comfortable, by all means have at it, but plainly it would have to eventually be typed into a computer. Scanning handwriting (whether sloppy or good) just wouldn’t cut it with publishers, editors and script readers.

No, what I’m getting at is sketching out ideas, writing for a while with the good old fashioned pen or pencil can get the thoughts flowing. The slower pace helps ideas germinate. The physical act of moving pen across paper is somehow rewarding and taps into your inner wells of creativity. When you were young didn’t you ever take pleasure in writing something, perhaps for school, perhaps one of your early stories and seeing the page fill up with those swirling lines and loops? In a generation or two that might be lost, but for now, remember it and how it made you feel. And if you haven’t experience it, if you’re of a generation where already that feeling has been lost, then I suggest you experience it for yourself now. Turn away from the computer and just write something; an idea, notes on something you’re working on, whatever moves you, and see how different it feels from typing stories and notes on your computer keyboard. I’m a speed typist, but still, I love to pick up that pen.

Hopefully this is an idea that will work for you, give you that little bump you may need. If not then I suggest you try scotch (isn’t that what Hemingway did?) or what the heck, if in Colorado, weed if all else fails…you do know I’m kidding, right?

About the scotch and the weed. Not about putting pen to paper. Try it, you’ll like it.


munchman sez: “Oh, man, do I wish I’d made this.” Or at least seen it, you know, in time:

“Oh wait – I did!” (The seeing it in time thing anyway.)

a film by Andreas Bogh Rassmussen

Note from TVWriter™ to Vimeo: Man, do we ever luv you!

Just saying.

How Seth Meyers and TV Showrunners Are Using Twitter to Find New Writers

Future Comedy Writers of the TV World – Lissen Up!

twittercomedyby Michael Schneider

Less than a year ago, Bryan Donaldson was working in IT at an Illinois insurance company. But as newly-minted late night star Seth Meyers began scouting writers to join his Late Night with Seth Meyers staff, Donaldson’s Twitter feed, @TheNardvark, caught the comic’s eye.

The host and his executive producer,Michael Shoemaker, thought that Donaldson’s 140-character quips (one example: “The addition of Jenny McCarthy could be the shot in the arm that The Viewneeded but not the one her kids still need”) would work well as monologue jokes. Donaldson packed his bags and moved to New York, where he had never even visited, to join the show in time for its February launch.

“Twitter has completely democratized the way we find writers,” Meyers said at last month’s South by Southwest festival. “You read their last six months of Tweets and you can tell immediately if they have a great sense of humor.”

In order to land a TV staff job, writers used to just submit scripts that they had written on spec. Those scripts are still a factor, but now social media gives showrunners like Parks and Recreation‘s Michael Schur another way to gauge a job contender’s skills. Schur says he hired two writers, Megan Amram and Jen Statsky, after enjoying their humorous tweets.

“It’s great for producers, it’s a new way to find someone who can write jokes,” he says. “You get to see how their brain works.” Schur also likes that Twitter forces writers to be “really concise and a good editor of their own material.”

Additionally, Twitter gives Schur a chance to do more due diligence on potential hires beyond a spec script, which could have been polished by someone else.

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Why You’re Not Finishing the Writing You Started

Excellent advice from a guy who makes his living at this thing of ours. (Writing, not give advice. Whew. We’d never trust somebody like that. Nossir.

writer-ideaby Shanan Haislip

Are you the kind of writer who’s brimming with ideas, but can’t seem to finish a single one of them?

That was me. I had a ton of ideas, and they sounded great for a paragraph, maybe a page, but then they’d just… fade. My work-in-progress would inevitably be consigned to a bottom drawer, never to be finished.

All of my ideas seemed doomed to fail. In fact, my inability to finish work was making me doubt myself as a writer. Until one day, I pitched an idea to a magazine, and it was accepted. Cue panic. Now what?

Not having the option to quit taught me a huge lesson: The problem wasn’t my ideas, it was how I handled them once they appeared.

Inspiration: I was doing it wrong.

Here’s what I learned about ideas, and how to make them stick around for the long haul.

1. Let the Idea Breathe

I’m an ignoramus about wine, but I married into a family that’s very knowledgable about it. The one concept I struggled with was the idea of uncorking a bottle of red wine, and then just… leaving it there. On the counter. “You have to let it breathe,” I was told.

Letting wine “breathe,” whatever that meant, seemed grandly silly. It’s wine, I thought. You’re supposed to drink it, not stare at it.

However you feel about letting wine breathe (I’m still not sold on that), the concept is a useful way to think about your ideas. If you get struck with inspiration, and rush to your desk to write it down, that’s like uncorking new wine and drinking it straight away.

Instead, start writing around it. Freewrite about it (Joe Bunting at The Write Practice has an excellent, and hilarious, post about freewriting here). Ask your idea questions. Get to know your thoughts about the topic. Write your last sentence. Cross it out. Write another one.

Whatever you do, get to know your idea before diving straight into Chapter 1.

2. Write Your Idea’s Elevator Speech

Consciously or unconsciously, there’s an endgame, a point, to your idea. In the case of the piece I pitched to the writing magazine, it was: Every writer is a musician, whether they realize it or not.

Can you find that kind of nugget in your idea? Something that has to be proven, has to be shared? Imagine writing the query letter that’s going to accompany this idea. What would the first paragraph say? Write it down. When momentum starts to slip, stare at it. Get passionate again. Keep writing.

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Troy DeVolld: Why It Pays to Write a Post-Mortem at the End of the Season

abstractedby Troy DeVolld

When someone dies, medical professionals sometimes perform a post-mortem (autopsy) on the corpse in order to gain understanding of what went wrong and to evaluate any disease or trauma that might be present.  Post-mortems often lead to academic discovery and become useful in the future treatment of illnesses and injuries.

While there’s a great deal of difference between the medical field and producing a reality television program, I hate to dash out the door at the end of my run on a show without looking back and asking what we might have been able to do better for our “patient,” the series.

When completing a season, I strongly urge producers at the Supervising Producer level and above to write up a simple one or two page post-mortem detailing practices that they feel worked or did not work in all areas of the production.  Sometimes the company or showrunner won’t be interested in them, but even if they’re done just for your own understanding, they’ll help you to avoid missteps and enable you to repeat or improve upon what worked when you’re hired back on either the next season or your next project.

It’s important to approach the post-mortem not as an exercise in placing blame or heaping praise on individuals or departments, but in being able to enter subsequent seasons and other future efforts with greater focus and an understanding of the show’s stumbles and triumphs.

Points to ponder:

  • Were workflow and creative objective clearly outlined from the onset of the show?
  • Were adequate resources made available to production?  Post-production?
  • Were the allotted resources used efficiently?
  • Did the internal review process work?
  • Did the external (network) review process work?
  • Were there any surprises along the way?  Did we deal with them effectively and efficiently?
  • Were there any issues with staff or crew retention?  What were the sources of conflict there in the event of poor retention?
  • Was communication between field and post effective?  How can we improve communication next season?
  • What unique challenges did the show propose?
  • Did we improve or erode our relationship with the cast over the season?  How can we improve our relationship in subsequent seasons?

You know what they say —  those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.  A little navel-gazing at the end of a run will make you a better storyteller and professional.