Advice for a Career in Writing

  1. Never quit.
    Not just in the "Never give up!" way. I mean it literally: if you have a job writing full-time somewhere, don't you dare quit over edits that you didn't like or some vague feeling that you can "do better." Writing is a noble but elusive profession: if you can pay your rent and/or get health insurance from a place willing to pay you for your ability to string words together in a sentence, you are pretty fucking lucky. Write your pilot on your own damn time.
  2. Learn how to take a note/edit
    Don't be like Butch: that little sting is just pride fucking with you. Learn how to take a punch on the chin without flipping out and murdering another boxer. (Eh, you get it.) All writing involves an editing process, and of course it stings when someone tells you that you didn't get it 💯 the first time. Suck it up...you'll never get better otherwise.
  3. Learn how to give notes/edits
    In your time as a writer, you will be called upon to help shape a piece of writing that is not your own. "But that's not my joooooooooooob!" You might say, hoping that by extending the vowel indefinitely, the person asking will leave quietly. Part of writing is learning how to best use yours skills not just for yourself. Learn the stupid compliment sandwich trick; it softens the blow. Try to teach, not just fix. (Rewriting someone else is a waste of both people's time.) Be a mentor: it pays off.
  4. Write what you know, sure, but more importantly: know what you are writing.
    Freeform association/automatic writing is for your personal journals only! Think about what elements are necessary to the story you are trying to tell. For instance: in that Sarah Silverman profile, the first draft was way too much about my own story/life rather than Sarah's. I took my editor's note and cut it all. She also wanted to omit the part about masturbation, which I knew was vital for the story. I knew what part of my first draft to fight for, and I can stand proudly by the result.
  5. Published writing is about compromising and business as much as it is about creativity.
    People think of writing as a solitary activity, and the nobility associated with being an uncompromising artist. But even showrunners and authors and playwrights --especially those three--will tell you that the job is as much about the bottom line as it is the vision in their heads. Learn to collaborate, find people you trust to do the things you absolutely cannot do yourself, and remember: no one should work for free. Not you, not your editor, not your agent, not your assistant or sound guy.
  6. Don't let someone call you "a creative" as a compliment.
    It can really fuck with you, because the implication is that you are some wunderkind who doesn't have to abide by the rules the rest of us do. Be disciplined and diligent and don't rest on a single success. Keep yourself on a schedule because no one else is going to do it for you. Be more than a creative. Be a force of fucking nature.
  7. Ask for help and then keep asking until you get a response.
    Yes, you are annoying me with the billion of follow-up emails when I haven't gotten back to you the first time. But that's the only way I'm going to notice. Don't worry about annoying someone like me: just make clear asks. "Can you mentor me?" Ummm I have no idea, probably not. "Can you read this one specific piece and give me notes?" Yes, I can. Sorry for the delayed response.
  8. Be grateful. Be loyal. And never forget the people who took a chance on you.
    You little shits.
  9. Now go and write!
    Make me proud and give me a shoutout in the acknowledgements!