Recently, I've been reading a lot of screenwriting blogs. Many of them remind me of me when I was younger, with this fantasy that they are going to be cranking out scripts at home and sending them in, and then movies are going to get made. For most, that doesn't happen. For a lucky few, it does, but even for them, that fantasy does not match the reality.
The reality of a writing career, much to my chagrin, is not writing at all. It's pitching. It's talking. It's meeting. It's saying ideas out loud to people. There is some writing, but it seems like there is even more of that other awful crap.
And that's kind of a bummer, at least for me. I got into this business because I wanted to be a hermit. That was my dream. To never go outside ever again. To be holed up in my room, watching The Hub, playing basketball in my dining room in an animal free environment. I wanted to be left alone, but since God has a sick sense of humor, the exact opposite happened (well, except for the basketball in the living room part. As you know, that came true).
All I do is interact with people all day long. I sit in a shitty office with shittier dogs yapping at my feet wanting a bite of my God Damn lunch. I never get to go home. I watch more TV than anyone I know, and it's still not even close to enough. I have to take notes from 28 year olds whose main qualification is getting some asshole coffee for the last 2 years. I am never left alone. But that, for most of us lucky enough to get gigs, is the job.
It really is a shame too, because most writers are bad at talking. They are terrible at human interaction, or knowing when to pitch or what to pitch. And that is my lesson for today.
'Tis better to pitch 1 good thing, then to pitch 3 good things wrapped in 20 crappy things
I hung out with a friend of mine recently who is a sitcom writer, and he brought up the point that many times young writers don't understand that not pitching can be way better than pitching.
I've made an entire career out of not talking that much. I seem a lot smarter and funnier by not saying every stupid thought that comes into my brain. If I did, I'd be exposed as the fraud that I am (that all of us are). I pretty much only pitch something when I know I've got the one that is going on television. And that presents the illusion that I know what I'm talking about.
If anything, I should really talk more. But I'd rather take a few swings and hit .400, then get a million at bats and hit below the Mendoza line.
There are always gonna be times when a line is needed - whether it be on sitcoms, or the kinds of shows I write on, or even movies. "We need something here". That's when the writers gather, and that's when you want to be the comedy genius for the next 5 seconds until another line is needed.
What you don't want is silence, so it's okay to throw something out to get the ball rolling. It's even better when someone else does it, and then you fix their bad joke and make it your own. But you don't want to spit out a bunch of things because time is usually of the essence. There's a limit to the amount of dumb things the room can here before the whole thing is spoiled and even a good joke won't seem acceptable.
Also, don't pitch things that can't be produced. I worked with one guy who would pitch hilarious things that could only be done on a $100 million dollar budget. "How about if a genie flies in and grants them 3 whores". That might be funny, but it's completely unhelpful cause we can't actually do it.
Most importantly, what I can't stand are writers who think that every thought they have deserves to be heard. That is the worst. It only makes your executive producer or talent angry. You think you have so many ideas and jokes that you're impressing everybody. But they think less of you, not more. You'd rather have them thinking, "that person doesn't talk a lot, but when they do it's something I can use". You definitely don't want them thinking, "when they talk, it's almost always a waste of my time".
Even the smartest, funniest guy in the room has bad ideas sometimes. Everyone. I've been in rooms with brilliant motherfuckers, and they say things that stop the room cold because they are just bad. But that's the process. Just don't make a habit of it.
Just remember that not everything you say is funny or good. Please stop and think about what you have before you share it with the rest of us, because there is a very good possibility that it sucks.
"But what if I don't know what they'll like and what they'll hate?" Well, then there's probably an opening in the plumbing supply business for you.