I’m working on the first draft of a new pilot, and something I’ve come to realize about my writing process is that what takes me the longest isn’t coming up with characters or show concepts, but making decisions about those characters as I dive into the plot.
It’s so tempting to procrastinate when writing, especially when writer’s block creeps in. One way to avoid that is to plan as much as possible, since writing the script should be the fun part. The difficult part is writing an outline and breaking a story, not to mention making it interesting and funny on top of that if you’re a comedy writer. Personally, I’ve only ever been drawn to comedies when it comes to television, and I’ve yet to try writing a drama. For now I’m sticking with comedy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if sooner or later I’ll decide to try writing a drama as well. Or at the very least a dramedy.
When it all comes down to it, writing can be looked at as a series of decision-making. You decide the backstory for your characters. You decide their relationships. You decide their goals. You decide where you want the story to go. More often than not, when I get stuck with my writing, it’s because I’m trying to decide a character trait or a story detail that ultimately will affect the entire plot. I try to remind myself that, especially with a first draft, the only thing that matters is getting it done. Then comes the joyous step of re-writing.
I think of that part as taking apart a puzzle, since you’ve got to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Then you put the script back together with the intent of creating something much better than it was before. This is where notes and feedback are absolutely key when writing second, third, fourth, fifth drafts. Of course, television being a collaborative medium, everyone in a writer’s room will work together to strengthen a script. It’s all about making decisions, taking out jokes, changing story beats, maneuvering characters’ motivations. They’re all pieces of the puzzle, and then, hopefully, by the end, you’re left with a masterpiece.
Thinking about all the decisions that go with the writing process also made me think about how it parallels with life. As they say, art imitates life, and really, when you think about it, life can be looked at as a series of decisions, big and small, that shape the course of our entire lives. We decide what we want to be when we grow up. We decide where we want to live. We decide what we wear to work. We decide what we’re having for lunch.
Granted, there are exceptions in terms of things being decided for us, particularly as kids, but ultimately, we’re the ones in charge of our own lives. We decide our own destiny. We decide how we feel about things. We decide not to let setbacks get us down.
In both my life and my writing, I’ve decided not to let negativity get the best of me. I’m going to push against my inner self-critic and, as always, embrace the process: keep learning, keep trying and keep striving for excellence.