Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 5] — Going Public

December 19th, 2014 by

So after four days of looking at the Past, Present, Future, and Practical Matters, the big day has arrived: Time to etch in virtual stone our writing goals for 2015. Oh, and one more little thing: It’s important that you go public with your goals.

Today: Going Public

Why go public?

Because if we just think about your goals, they are nothing more than illusions, hazy, half-baked phantasms in our heads, here and potentially gone like all the other zillion thoughts that spurt through our consciousness each day.

Because if you don’t formalize your writing goals, you may forget them.

Because having some sort of tangible, physical list gives you a touchstone to remind you what you need be focusing on throughout the year.

Because by proclaiming your goals to the Universe, they become real.

And the biggest reason of all: That simple act of courage — declaring your goals publicly — engenders positive energy, recalling the line by the Rev. Basil King who said, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

What then do I mean by going public?

Anything that gets the goals out of your head and into the physical universe. Such as:

* Write down your goals onto 3×5 index cards.

* Compose a letter to yourself with your goals, stick said letter in an envelope, and tack it to your desk where you can see and know it’s there when you write.

* Email your family and friends with the list of goals.

* Host a party at which you recite your goals and invite people’s moral and emotional support.

* Hire the Goodyear Blimp and flash your goals on it over the Rose Bowl.

Or you can simply post your writing goals for 2015 here on GITS.

Here’s how I look at writing goals: They are similar to the relationship a writer has with an outline. An outline can be a tremendous benefit to a writer, wrangling the story and giving shape to it. But once you hit FADE IN, you have to be willing to follow the characters wherever they take you. Sometimes the characters follow the outline perfectly. Other times, they don’t. In the case of the latter, you never stifle your characters, instead you have to have the courage to set your outline aside, and go with the creative flow.

Same thing with writing goals and whatever opportunities come along. Your goals give shape to the potential narrative of your creative year. Sometimes events lay out just like you figured they would. But other times, some project pops up, a unique opportunity to write a story about which you feel passionate. In those cases, you have to be willing to veer away from the schedule for your goals — not the goals themselves, just how and when you are go about realizing them.

Speaking of schedule, going public with your writing goals does not mean your planning work is done. It will do you little good if you generate a list of goals, but don’t figure out a time frame within which to accomplish those goals. So that is where we start the next step in the process on Monday: Working up a schedule. Following that on Tuesday through Friday, we will explore time saving and project management tips, mine and hopefully yours, to help facilitate reaching our writing goals next year.

For now, those of you who feel emboldened, I’ll see you in Comments and look forward to reading about your writing projects in 2015. And for those of you who want to keep that information to yourself, that’s completely fine. Just be sure to go public, even if it’s formalizing a list of writing goals on a 3×5 index card.

Bottom line: All my best to each of you in your creative endeavors in 2015 and beyond.

Onward!

Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 4] — Practical Matters

December 18th, 2014 by

In Part 1, we looked back at the Past, what we had accomplished as writers in 2013.

In Part 2, we considered the Present, assessing where we are now.

And in Part 3, we looked at the Future, visualizing where we’d like our writing to take us.

When trying to lock down writing goals, considering all those permutations is necessary, well and good.

However there is this little thing that impacts our plans. You know it, don’t you? That little thing known as Life?

It’s great to generate a list of things we want to accomplish, but if we don’t take into account the realities of our day to day, week to week, month to month existence, the practical matters of Life, then that set of goals becomes… unreachable. And if unreachable, it becomes… dispiriting. And if dispiriting… over time all our story ideas get dispatched to the dead-end land of dust and tumbleweeds… and our writing dreams wither and die.

To avoid that fate, you’ve got to be realistic.

Today: Practical Matters

It’s important to have goals, but you have to be S.M.A.R.T. about it. Once again: Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

Aim high. But deal with reality.

You have a job. Maybe you’ve got a second job. Or you’re in school.

You have friends. You have family. Maybe a spouse or a lover.

In other words, Responsibilities. You have them. I have them. And we can’t ignore them when coming up with a plan to reach our writing goals. Otherwise it’s not really a plan, is it, but rather nothing more than a wish list.

When I look at that S.M.A.R.T. list, the one that opens its jaws and roars at me, desperate to get my attention is this one: Realistic.

I am great at coming up with ideas. I am also great at making the leap. So when I have ideas, I am prone to jump into them.

Part of this is my belief in The Spirit of the Spec. You get an idea. You act on it. You put it out there. My decision to take a break from academics. Accepting an invitation to visit Aspen to see if I could make it as a musician. “I can do that,” my response to a question about if I could write a screenplay (when I had never written one before). The spec script K-9. Taking up teaching part-time. Starting this blog. Partnering with the Black List. Launching Screenwriting Master Class. Doing the Quest Initiative. On and on and on it goes, my life a litany of having ideas and acting on them.

Now that’s all good, of course, with respect to being a self-starter. Combined with being a military brat and having zero aversion to work, along with a pretty good track record for sticking to things and seeing them through to the end, I get a lot done.

The problem is I take on too much.

There. I said it. Yep. I ain’t Superman. I can’t answer all my emails. I can’t say “yes” to every request. I can’t take on every idea I come up with.

The simple fact is the key to setting realistic expectations is to be able to say NO.

In 2015, I am making a commitment to one particular writing project. And in doing that, I’ve got to say NO to some other things. I know this will be hard. I will have to fight my instincts more than once.

But in order to create quality with regard to this particular project, I’m going to have to be extra careful about the quantity of things I do.

Can anyone else relate to this issue? Do you tend to do too much?

The reality is unless you are single, have zero interest in a social life, live like a monk so don’t require much in the way of income, and can afford to write 20 hours per day, you have to figure out a way to handle the requirements of your life and make progress as a writer. Which means whatever writing goals you choose for 2014, they have to be realistic. Be honest with yourself. What of these things can I reasonably expect to accomplish next year?

One big note to remember: It’s not just about writing a screenplay, it’s about becoming a screenwriter. The idea that you would write a first spec script, sell it, then immediately transition into a working professional screenwriter is a flawed end game. You not only need to learn how to write screenplays, but also how to think like a screenwriter, how to work like a screenwriter, how to handle yourself like a screenwriter. All those simply take time. More than likely for you to have any realistic chance to succeed in this craft, you must give yourself more than one or two years of writing and preparation. Therefore my advice is not to think of 2015 as a year in which you will do everything, but rather one step in a process that may well take several years. The downside: Acknowledging you will be doing this for some time. The upside: You’re not laden down with an unrealistic set of goals, instead you have some achievable things on your list.

In other words — as noted above — an actual plan, not a wish list.

And for me, I need to work on this whole realistic thing in 2015.

Let’s continue this conversation in Comments, shall we? How do you make time to write? How do you find a balance between your Writing and your Life? How many years have you given yourself to pursue your writing aspirations?

Tomorrow is the big day: To lay out our specific writing goals for 2015. By committing to something in public, we make those goal more tangible and our commitment to them more real.

Let’s do everything we can to make 2015 our best creative year yet!

Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 3] — Where Do You Want To Go As A Writer?

December 17th, 2014 by

In Part 1, we looked back at the Past, what we had accomplished as writers in 2014.

In Part 2, we considered the Present, assessing where we are now.

Today we direct our self-reflection toward the Future. Not just 2015, but beyond. Five years from now. Ten years. Twenty. We consider the question: Where do you want to go as a writer?

Of course, we can’t know the answer. Indeed we can’t even assume we’ll make any money in the creative arts. As I wrote in this TBOS column is: “Movies don’t owe anybody a living.” Swap out any kind of writing for ‘movies,’ it’s the same thing.

But while we must keep our feet firmly planted on the ground, understanding the odds against financial success, there is no good reason why we can’t put our head in the clouds, indeed poke above them to catch a glimpse of our possible bright future. In fact, it’s important to envision what a successful career in the entertainment field would look like because when you break into the business, one of the earliest conversations you will have with your agents and/or manager is around this question: What do you want to do?

During this part of your reflection process, if your mind wanders off into images of a home in the Hollywood Hills, a new sports car, walking the red carpet at a movie premiere, Spielberg on the phone to ask you to salvage a troubled script, your Academy Award acceptance speech, I have no problem with that. We all deserve and need fantasies such as those to kick-start our motivation from time to time.

But the focus here is specific: You and your writing. Where do you want to be with it in a decade or longer? What would be the most fulfilling use of your creativity as a writer?

Again if you haven’t joined in with our collective ruminations in this series of posts yet, now is a perfect opportunity. First off, there’s zero negativity involved in this mental exercise today, rather it’s all about a positive sense of your future (i.e., fun stuff). Second whether you subscribe to the theory of creative visualization or not, having a specific image of yourself as a writer in the future at least provides you with a point of focus for your efforts in the present.

Today: Where Do You Want To Go As A Writer

Here are some questions you may ask yourself:

* Do you want just to write movies?

* Do you want just to write TV?

* Do you want to write both?

* Do you want to write and direct?

* Do you want to write and produce?

* Do you want to bounce between writing big commercial movies and character-driven indie films?

* Do you want to write screenplays and novels?

* Do you want to carve out a niche writing specific types of movies or write across multiple genres?

I’m sure you have other questions to add to the list. Whatever you ask yourself, the important thing is to project into the future and imagine where you want your writing to take you. Stop by Comments, won’t you, and share your thoughts.

Tomorrow we focus on practical matters. Remember what we’re trying to do here is be S.M.A.R.T. about our choices when it comes to Writing Goals: 2015.

S = Smart

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Realistic

T = Timely

After spending time with our head in the clouds, tomorrow we focus on keeping our feet on the ground.

See you in Comments!

Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 2] — Assessing Where You Are

December 16th, 2014 by

This series of daily posts, starting yesterday and going through next Friday (M-F),  is not about resolutions which we make on December 31 and break by January 30… or sooner. This is not about wish lists and ephemeral fantasies. This is about each of us committing ourselves to ply the craft of writing day after day, to tell stories only we can tell, and to end up with a tangible product in our hand — a completed manuscript. Then start on another story…

Writing is hard. It just is. It’s a lonely occupation, far too often we get lost along the way, we have to fight off constant Inner Voices of Negativity, and the competition is stupid insane. In the face of that I guess what I’m hoping for in this effort is to enlist the entirety of the burgeoning GITS community to create a sum greater than the parts, a spirit of I Can Do That which grows and grows, and pours out into each of our little creative cups, feeding our souls and fueling our persistence.

Hence 10 posts. First and foremost, I believe the best way to identify simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely writing goals is to do a thorough job of self-examination, which is what we are doing this week, buttressed by some good, old-fashioned inspiration, which is what is on the docket for next week. But there’s also this: Each day I’m here bellowing at you is an opportunity. You may not be with us on Day 1. You may not catch up to us by Day 5. Perhaps it may take you until Day 10. But make no mistake: This is a Herald’s Call. The only way you are going to become a writer is by being a writer. And the best way to be a writer is to make goals… and meet the hell out of them.

If you missed the Day 1 post, you can catch that here.

Today: Assessing Where You Are

We started yesterday by looking back on what we accomplished in 2014. That part of the process is practical, aggregating our significant events and tangible achievements in the previous twelve months. Today we assess where we are as writers. This aspect of the process is more emotional, even spiritual.

Get curious about your Creative Self. Perhaps ask one or more of these questions:

* Is this where I want to be as a writer?

* Am I writing what I want to be writing?

* What do I want to write?

* What do I need to write?

* Is there a particular story I have surfaced about which I am particularly passionate?

* Has something important happened in my life this year which has shifted my writing perspective?

* Am I in touch with my Creative Self?

* What can I do to be a better writer?

How about you? Where are you as a writer? How would you assess where your Creative Self is just now? If it’s unclear, a piece of advice: Go into a room, shut the door, turn off all electronic conveyances, and ask yourself some of those questions noted above. What is your Creative Self calling you to do as a writer?

I encourage you to share your thoughts and impressions in Comments. And I put out a special invitation to those of you who are just starting on your writing adventure. Even if you have just recently discovered screenwriting or are contemplating for the first time giving expression to your creative impulses, stake that claim here today. As a bonus, I’m giving out batches of creative juju to all responders in Comments today!

Tomorrow we switch perspectives, instead of looking back at the past, then here today at the present, we extend our view toward the future… not just 2015, but beyond… by asking this simple question: Where do you want to be as a writer?

See you in Comments!

Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 1] — Looking Back

December 15th, 2014 by

I thought I would reprise something I’ve done this time the last few year with the hope it would benefit as many of you as possible in taking concrete steps forward next year with your writing aspirations. It’s a very simple thing, really — setting goals — but for many, if not most people, it is an invaluable part of their creative process. You can go here to read some background on why setting goals is important and how to be S.M.A.R.T. about it.

You may be someone who likes to set goals. Or someone who hates it. Maybe you’ve never really tried to formalize the process.

Whatever your inclinations or prior experience has been, I encourage you to try it for 2015. Three big reasons why:

#1: With all its distractions, life has a way of dissipating our positive energy. We may have some general sense of what we’d like to accomplish, but the mere fact we live with the gigantic time-suck that is the Internet, that alone has a way of squandering countless hours of time when we could be writing. One of the best ways I know to deal with this natural tendency toward dissolution of focus is to take a definitive stand: Declare your intentions, and stay fixed on those goals every day.

#2: If you know Script Girl, her tagline offers one of the most fundamental truths about the screenwriting business there is: “You can’t sell it, if you don’t write it.” You have to finish that script. In fact, to maximize your chances at success, let me amend that last statement: You have to finish those scripts. As in plural. The more scripts you write, the more you understand the craft, the better you get as a writer, and the more you prepare yourself for a possible career as a screenwriter. Plus you have more content to show to agents and managers. And each of those scripts represents a story you can sell potentially. But if you don’t write them… cue Script Girl.

#3: There’s an anecdote I believe in William Goldman’s memoir “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” still perhaps the best book about screenwriting even twenty plus years after its publication. As I recall the story, Goldman was friends with a top NBA basketball player, a man renowned for the amount of time he spent practicing. Even after he had become a successful professional athlete, he was the kind of guy who would be shooting jump shots in a lonely gym after midnight. Goldman asked him, “Why do you practice so much.” The player’s answer: “Because when I’m not practicing, someone else is.” The screenwriting version: If you’re not writing, someone else is. Screenwriting is an incredibly competitive field. To give yourself an edge over the competition, you simply have to spend time — a lot of it! — writing.

Three reasons for you to be serious about setting writing goals for 2015. I’m sure you could provide even more.

Thus each day this week (Monday-Friday) and as well as next week, I will be posting something about setting goals as well as tips and inspirational observations to achieve them, and inviting any of you to join in.

Today: Looking Backward

An important first step in setting writing goals is to look back at what you accomplished in the last twelve months. If you’ve achieved a lot, great. By reviewing your accomplishments, you can use that as a springboard to propel you into the New Year. You can also assess what you’ve done to provide a logical transition from these projects this year to the ones you choose to write in the upcoming year.

On the other hand, if you look back at this year and realize you did not get nearly enough done on the writing front, that should serve as motivation as well. You don’t want to let another year slip by without making significant progress, correct? All the more reason to try establishing some simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals for 2015.

Why not take the time to look back at your year in writing? I invite you to head to Comments and share with us what you accomplished in 2014. How many scripts did you write? How many story concepts did you generate? How many short stories or poems did you write? Maybe you signed with an agent or manager. Maybe you sold a script. Maybe you started your very first script. Anything you accomplished is worth celebrating, so I encourage you to share that with us so we can celebrate together.

The next step in this process of setting writing goals for 2015: Assessing where you are as a writer. Sit down with yourself and take a critical, honest look at where you are, what you’ve done, and where you want to be. Zero in on finding those areas about which you feel really passionate. That’s where we’ll start when we pick up the process tomorrow.

Bottom line: Set some specific, achievable goals for 2015.

Tomorrow: Part 2 — Assessing Where You Are.

Writers, what are you thankful for?

November 26th, 2014 by

Here in the United States, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Every year at this time, I like to post this question: What are you thankful for?

What about writing — the process, experience, practice, lifestyle — gives you joy?

I know this: I’m thankful I had this crazy idea to do a blog. Met so many wonderful people over the last 6+ years. Learned so much.

How about you: What are your creative blessings?

And here is how to do the day up right!

Happy Thanksgiving to creatives everywhere!

Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: “Don’t Finish That Scene!”

October 28th, 2014 by

Let’s say you’re in the middle of writing a script – and it’s a slog. You’re finding it really tough to drag your ass onto the chair and start writing the next scene.

Well, let’s roll back the clock. What if yesterday, you hadn’t finished the previous scene? What if you got halfway through that scene, knew exactly where it needed to go to reach the end, but instead of completing it, you quit your writing session with the scene unfinished.

Now instead of starting the next day having to break a new scene, you have the easy task of finishing the scene from the day before.

Bada-bing, bada-boom, you knock out the ending to the scene, giving your mind and your fingers a chance to warm up — and now you’re ready to charge ahead.

So the trick is stop each writing session in the middle of a scene. That way you can start the next session with the ‘positive’ experience of finishing a scene.

This has been the inaugural edition of “Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work.”

[Originally posted September 23, 2008]

Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: 1 Page A Day

October 27th, 2014 by


I heard this idea from producer Larry Gordon about how to knock out a script: Write one page per day. Think about it — at one page per day, in 4 months you’ve generated a 120 pages. So if you take this approach:

* 1 month: Research, brainstorming, character development, plotting

* 4 months: Writing (1 page per day)

* 1 month: Rewrite and final edit

Which means you can crank out 2 full-length screenplays per year — by writing just one page per day.

This has been another edition of Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work.

[Originally posted September 27, 2008]

David Milch: “The Writer’s Voice” (Part 5)

October 25th, 2014 by

Back in September 2010, I ran a week-long series featuring key excerpts from a memorable series of presentations by David Milch at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills. Then this week, I stumbled upon this: An entire series called The Idea of the Writer by Milch now available on YouTube. In recognition of that wonderful news, I will reprise my posts and embed video from each of Milch’s presentations.

David Milch is a talented writer. Check out these credits:

Television credits (as creator)

Awards and recognition

  • 1993 Emmy Award, Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series (Hill Street Blues)
  • 1994 Edgar Award, Best Episode in a Television Series Teleplay (NYPD Blue, “4B or Not 4B”)
  • 1995 Emmy Award, Best Drama Series (NYPD Blue)
  • 1995 Edgar Award, Best Episode in a Television Series Teleplay (NYPD Blue, “Simone Says”) (shared with Steven Bochco and Walon Green)
  • 2006 Austin Film Festival, Outstanding Television Writer Award recipient

Not to mention the 259 episodes of “N.Y.P.D. Blue” he’s credited with writing.

I did this post back in July that featured some great video of Milch sharing his thoughts about writing. At the time, I noted this:

What leaped to mind when I read the news about the new HBO series was a series of presentations Milch gave at the WGA Theater several years ago. They were covered and excerpted in the fine WGA journal “Written By” over the course of several months. I remember reading them, both fascinated and inspired by Milch’s ideas.

I contacted “Written By” and they have kindly offered to create electronic versions of the original hard copies, so I can excerpt them on GITS. Look forward to that sometime soon.

This week each day, I’ll feature some of Milch’s comments from those presentations at the WGA Theater from back in 2001, excerpted from the “Written By” journal. Here is Part 5:

Let me hasten to say I’m not comparing myself to St. Paul. But I know what it is to do what you never dreamed of doing, what you never thought you’d be capable of doing. The utter mystification that you experience. “How did I get here? How did this happen?” Let me read from Paul’s Epistles. He doesn’t seem like a murderer: “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal. Sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions, for I do not do what I want. But I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want but the evil I don’t want is what I do.”

Let’s think a little bit just for a second about writing, when for any reason you don’t do it, and if you do do it, you don’t do the writing you want to do, and if you do the writing you thought you wanted to do it turns out that you didn’t do it the way you wanted to do it, or you gave it to the wrong person, or the person you gave it to didn’t handle it the way you wanted . . . It’s a mystery. It’s all a mystery to us.

—-

But consider what that was like for him to have his works rejected like that. And when he went out, he said, “All right, so you want me in Rome. You want me working in Rome?” And they said, “Yeah, work in Rome.” And he did. That’s where he died. So all of us can tell our war stories of isolation and humiliation and vacillation in commitment to the faith, which for us is, in this very secular context, the enterprise of fellowship. What I would have you understand is that if you keep coming—you know, Franz Kafka was every bit as crazy as Paul, but he kept coming—and if you sink your roots deep and if you keep coming, you can find an accommodation for anything.

You think you’ve got problems with self-esteem? One day Gregor Samsa woke and discovered he was a bug. So you got problems with self-esteem, now let’s see if you can write. And, ah, that story, The Metamorphosis, is the most beautiful domestic comedy. It’s not about being a bug; it’s about how a family lives with a bug. To paraphrase Yeats, the ladder starts in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart. And that ladder, if you keep climbing, will take you out. Here’s the last that Paul wrote:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have all faiths so as to move mountains, but have not love, I’m nothing. If I give away all I have but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful. It is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice of wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As per prophecy, it will pass away. As per tongues, they will cease. As per knowledge, it will pass away, for our knowledge is imperfect, and our prophecy is imperfect. But when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see as in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall understand fully, even as I had been fully understood. So faith, hope, and love abide. But the greatest of these is love.”

Now that came to Paul because he kept showing up. After he wrote that, he made a lot of mistakes. And he failed to be fully human a lot of times. But the words abide. And that the words abide perfectly is the little bit of God that we touch, in the same way that when we see our children, you will live outside yourself. As you experience the voices—whether they’re punitive, whether they’re meek, whether they’re shrill, whether they’re placid—understand that love accepts them all. Love redeems them all.

It’s interesting to note how much Milch ties in spirituality to writing. That’s certainly one of the reasons why I remember these articles in “Written By” because I completely agree that there is something about our writing and the words we write that is connected to God / the Universe / the Creative, whatever you choose to call it.

Let’s consider another biblical reference, this from the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In the Christian community, the “Word” in this context refers to Christ. But as writers, we can draw another meaning from the metaphor: the “Word” representing our stories. That in some mysterious, even mystical way they already exist. And it is our challenge to go into our stories to find them. And then the next step, also from John: “And the Word was made flesh.” When we write our stories, we are in effect engaged in a process of incarnation. And it’s all that, I believe, that is connected to God / the Universe / the Creative / Whatever.

Writing and perhaps especially writing for TV and film can be soul-sucking experience. So much effort, so much time, so many other voices mixed into the so-called ‘collaborative effort,’ often diminishing our original vision.

My hope for each one of you is that you never lose touch with the power and beauty of writing-as-incarnation experience. For bringing something into this world from the world of ideas is an awesome thing.

Day 5: David Milch on The Idea of the Writer.

For Part 1, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

Do yourself a favor. Check out all five posts. David Milch is a one of a kind seer into writing.

David Milch: “The Writer’s Voice” (Part 4)

October 24th, 2014 by

Back in September 2010, I ran a week-long series featuring key excerpts from a memorable series of presentations by David Milch at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills. Then this week, I stumbled upon this: An entire series called The Idea of the Writer by Milch now available on YouTube. In recognition of that wonderful news, I will reprise my posts and embed video from each of Milch’s presentations.

David Milch is a talented writer. Check out these credits:

Television credits (as creator)

Awards and recognition

  • 1993 Emmy Award, Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series (Hill Street Blues)
  • 1994 Edgar Award, Best Episode in a Television Series Teleplay (NYPD Blue, “4B or Not 4B”)
  • 1995 Emmy Award, Best Drama Series (NYPD Blue)
  • 1995 Edgar Award, Best Episode in a Television Series Teleplay (NYPD Blue, “Simone Says”) (shared with Steven Bochco and Walon Green)
  • 2006 Austin Film Festival, Outstanding Television Writer Award recipient

Not to mention the 259 episodes of “N.Y.P.D. Blue” he’s credited with writing.

I did this post back in July that featured some great video of Milch sharing his thoughts about writing. At the time, I noted this:

What leaped to mind when I read the news about the new HBO series was a series of presentations Milch gave at the WGA Theater several years ago. They were covered and excerpted in the fine WGA journal “Written By” over the course of several months. I remember reading them, both fascinated and inspired by Milch’s ideas.

I contacted “Written By” and they have kindly offered to create electronic versions of the original hard copies, so I can excerpt them on GITS. Look forward to that sometime soon.

This week each day, I’ll feature some of Milch’s comments from those presentations at the WGA Theater from back in 2001, excerpted from the “Written By” journal. Here is Part 4:

I’m sure that a lot of you want to know what gets you “in” [the entertainment industry]. And the answer is this: If you generate a passionate, humble connection with your work, you’re in. And the paradox is that you don’t need whatever you thought you needed, and when you don’t need it, that’s when they want you. But them wanting you is, by that time, an utter irrelevancy. When I said, “The price sometimes is terrible,” of trusting in the world, of turning over our manuscripts, of offering up our child—a sustained commitment to the enterprise that you’ve begun sometimes has a terrible, terrible price. There are all sorts of distractions and accommodations made available to us in our journey, to take a lesser path rather than absolute loyalty and devotion to the separate life of our work.

The extraordinary thing for me as a parent was that every day my child taught me more. When we had another child, it was geometrically more. You think that your heart will burst if there’s any more love. And it just keeps growing, and that’s what will happen with your engagement with material, to the extent you are able to sustain a selfless connection with it.

The process will be variable, and there will be days when it’s not so good, and there’s deep instruction in that as well. If you keep coming back in humility—without wanting to belabor the analogy—as a parent, then you can’t ever say, “Okay, that’s it.” Even if you say it, it doesn’t stop. Even if you blow town, it doesn’t stop. If you say it’s over, that’s okay, but the child still lives.

As much as one aspires to selflessness in connection with the work—and selflessness does not mean the denial of the self—whatever our heads are telling us is ultimately irrelevant to the living thing, the living breathing thing with which you have entered into a kind of parental responsibility for a little while. And then, at a certain point, it [the thing] gets up and runs away from you.

I remember the first time that happened to me. At first I was terrified, and then I thought I could fly. You’ve entered into a connection with something else, which is not limited by your selfhood.

Day 4: David Milch on The Idea of the Writer.

For Part 1, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Tomorrow Part 5 of “The Idea of the Writer” with David Milch.