Friday, June 12, 2009



Astute readers of this blog may have noticed I've been...busy. (As in..."unable to perform blogging duties in a manner which is consistent with the conventions of the 2007 blogging conference in Helsinki, Finland. 212.43.b1")

Truth is...I've been writing. Not fun, blogging writing. Writing for pay. Writing to keep my family insured and food on the table. Writing...because, as my agent has reminded me, evidently, that's what I do.

So, I figure, this is a good as time as any to talk about my love/hate relationship with this income producing aspect of my life.

I've been writing for quite a while now. In 1991 I was given my first paycheck for writing something. It was the script "Roll Over Beethoven" for a new show called Animaniacs.

John McCann and I had both been given assignments at the same time. His was "Draculee-Draculaa."

Anyway, after nervously working for about a week and a half, we both dropped off our scripts at Warner Brothers. We decided to celebrate this monumental...and, we thought, one-time event in our renting the worst 50's sci-fi movie we could find, go back to my house, and eat a box of powdered donuts. I don't remember the movie, but I'm sure John does.

Anyway, half way through the movie, the phone rang. It was Sherri Stoner, the story editor of Animaniacs. She was looking for John. I handed John the phone. Over the next minute and a half I listened as John said, "Oh. Yes. Yes. That's good. Really? That would be fine. Yes. Oh. Yes, I think I could do that."

I had no idea what was going on. Then John handed the phone to me and said Sherri wanted to talk to me. She basically said the same thing she said to John. They wanted to hire me full time to write for the show. I was stunned.

I hung up the phone. John and I looked at each other and did the happiest dance two men eating powered donuts could do. We had jobs. We could now afford real donuts. (However, I have to say that powdered donuts and coffee are still the best.)

Having been writing for quite a while now, I can confidently say the following things...

Writing is lonely, miserable, satisfying, annoying, enjoyable, painful, nerve-wracking, heinous, intolerable, exciting, exhausting, invigorating and virtually everything else that can possibly end in ING.

You would think that by now I would have a handle on it. But since every script is different, the only thing I know going in is this: It's gonna hurt.

I know there will be hours and hours in which the most I come up with is, "He looked sheepishly at the cabinet."

I know I will constantly use the word your when I really mean you're.

I know I will panic that agreeing to write the script was a mistake.

I know I will wander down the hall in hopes that the dogs can give me a good idea.

I know I will rewrite the 1st page at least 100 times, leaving me little more than a day to write the other 31 pages.

I know I will drink too much tea.

I know I will distract myself from the task at hand by looking for things under the bed. I never have a specific thing I'm looking for, I just want to see what's wound up there.

I will lay on the floor and look at my dogs.

I will lay on the floor and look for faces in the ceiling.

I will lay on the floor and do nothing of particular interest.

I will sit in every chair in the house for a brief moment.

I will say, "I should take a walk. It'll help clear my head." But I never do.

I will finish.

Yep, those are all the things I know.


  1. This is the most profound essay about writing I've seen since George Orwell's "Politics and The English Language"... or maybe "It's Only Words" by Mary Jo Pehl. Those are about even in my mind.

  2. And this is why I chose not to be an English major.

    For what it's worth, your fans think you're a great writer. I don't know that it's worth all the hours of toil and stress, but it's got to at least be worth a few powdered doughnuts.

  3. And here I thought you were just bein' a dad now that school's out.

    But yay for writing for pay! Do let us know about it when you're able to, won't you?

    And I can empathize somewhat. In my nearly 20-year career as a motorsports journalist, I always would get very tired (something I do right before something that I don't wanna do), and be very nervous.

    I never knew what I was going to write, because I never knew what was going to happen. What would be the angle? Would enough stuff happen to make it easy, or was I going to have to find something to fill the space with?

    If I had to do a feature, who was it going to be about? Would I be able to get good quotes from the drivers/riders, or was I going to have to write more to make up for a lack of good quotes?

    It always felt like a chore before I got into it. But it was a job I enjoyed, for sure.

  4. Here's my question for the great penman, Paul Rugg: when you're writing and have a deadline, either self-imposed or otherwise, how do you keep yourself moving and keep your brain creatively functioning?

    This weekend I was faced with having to do a page one rewrite on a treatment from Sunday morning to Sunday evening and I was finding it rough to keep going (since, ordinarily you write about two pages and then reward yourself by going and doing something else for, oh, a few months)...

    But when I didn't have that luxury, I was starting to get frustrated with myself for spouting cliche after cliche by about the eighth or ninth page or so...