I'm thrilled to announce that I'm now a staff writer for the ABC sci-fi series V, which returns this fall for a second season.
Five years. That may sound like an easy path, but it wasn't. I should've moved to LA twenty-five years ago, to be honest. My journey here was a bit sidetracked, to say the least. And while that may have allowed me time to perfect my writing skills, it also means I had more to give up at the altar of my craft.
To stay in LA until this opportunity arose, I made a multitude of personal and professional sacrifices. None of them were easy. But the alternative -- leaving, giving up my dream, settling for a lesser life -- was never an option for me.
I owe a huge debt to the Warner Bros. TV Writers' Workshop, whose investment in me was crucial. For six months, they trained me to be a TV writer. I thought I knew what it would be like. I'd read the books, the magazine articles, I'd even met actual writers and asked them their stories. But when it came down to it, I still had no earthly idea. You can build a picture in your head of how something like that works, but what I was forgetting was how I'd function under those circumstances. In short, I'd painted a detailed picture and forgotten to include myself in it. The workshop shook and rattled and drilled me until I couldn't see straight. And I'm staggered by just how much I needed that.
Through the workshop, we were introduced to working showrunners, writers, producers, directors, executives, managers and agents. All of them told us what is expected of new writers. They told us where they'd screwed up in those early days, or where they had seen others stumble. They also told us the simple core qualities that would see us through even the roughest times: gumption, honesty and imagination.
The core component of the workshop is, of course, the workshop, which is run in the model of an actual writers' room. I've been in intensive writing workshops with masters like Harlan Ellison so I thought I'd seen the true face of battle. I hadn't, not by a long shot. You should've seen the first draft of the Mentalist spec I wrote in the workshop. Better yet, you should've seen the faces of those who read that first draft. It sucked. It reeked. For the second draft, there wasn't anything to salvage. I was sent straight back to a completely blank page.
But I persevered and listened and paid attention. I got notes not just from my fellow workshoppers but also from Warner Bros. executives and writers on existing shows. And I heeded them all. Even when I disagreed with or couldn't understand a note, the fact that a reader bumped on something meant I hadn't done my job. It was a signal to try something new, something better. And in every single case, it improved my script.
Those who say executives don't know how to give story notes have no idea what they're talking about. Their notes saved my ass. I will never forget that lesson.
I could write for days on everything I learned in the workshop, but that would do neither you or me any real service. What I learned I had to learn by doing, by failing and trying again and soaking up story on an instinctual, non-verbal level. Suffice to say, the Warner Bros. TV Writers' Workshop is one of the best opportunities in this town and I recommend it highly. Bear in mind that I applied for five years before I got accepted. So if you don't get in, don't give up. Keep writing and raising the bar for yourself.
It's fitting that, on the fifth anniversary of starting this blog, of being fresh and new and scared and excited about moving to LA, I'm probably bringing it to an end. I read somewhere that the average lifespan of a blog is two years, so I've at least outlived hundreds of thousands of other blogs. And when a visionary like Bruce Sterling declares that blogs are dead, well, he probably knows more than I do on the subject.
This blog has been a terrific outlet for me, a fun and safe place to rant and rave not just about writing but politics, music, comics, etc. It was a place where friends far and wide could get status reports on my doings. It was often an early morning sanity stop for me, a place to focus and center and warm up the writing muscles with a quick post on whatever was on my mind that day.
But as I begin to finally tell stories in the medium I've dreamt of for so long, my focus will be more there and less here. I'm sure I'll still chime in with things from time to time. But this blog's job is done.
If you have a dream that drives you, you have to pursue it no matter what. You will stumble and fail and be asked to make sacrifices beyond your imagining. But if there is no other option for you, no other way for you to live a happy and satisfied life, you will somehow manage to do these things and more and you will in your own way succeed.
Don't think of this as a fight or a struggle. It is a pathway you must walk with quiet strength, with a Zen-like acceptance of all the curses and blessings it may bring.
Like the hot lizard-lady on the spaceship says: Be of peace. Always.