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Figure It the %$&* Out (scriptmag.com)
15 points by bearwithclaws on May 1, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments

One great example is Eminem. Despite the hectic tour/recording schedules and all the, um, perks of being a star, every moment he can he's obsessively scribbling in his notebook. When filming 8Mile the crew would have to yank it from his hands to get his attention back to acting. As a kid he'd scribble lyrics on his wall as he went to sleep.

People much busier than us find the time to write. Computers, from desktops to smartphones, make it incredibly easy to write & publish. If you don't, you don't want to.

Perhaps this is great advice for aspiring television writers, and works for their industry, but that doesn't mean we should use this advice to glorify the cult of overwork in our own industry.

Come at it from the other direction.

You spend all your time trying to write for television (or spend all your time doing X) because you have no effing life. You're the proverbial All Work Jack.

Author is a good example. All that sacrifice to write for E!, Fox, and reality shows. To what end?

Surely to write good TV scripts to an extent you need some experiences outside of TV.

People complain that TV is formulaic but what do you expect if all of the writers spend close on 24 hours a day reading and writing the same TV scripts and only ever meet the same people.

Right. I like the quote in the article "Oh, then I guess you don't want it that bad." Well, maybe you shouldn't want it that bad!

  This is where someone usually says, “Look, this may work 
  for some people, and that’s great. But that’s not the kind 
  of life I want to lead.”

  To which I reply… “Okay—then I guess you don’t want it 
  that bad.”

  And then they get upset. They think I’m attacking them 
  personally, calling them frauds or failures. Because they 
  “think” they want it that bad. They’re talented writers… 
  passionate consumers of pop culture… intelligent readers 
  and viewers… and they “think” they want to be a 
  professional writer. But the truth is: they don’t.
This worldview is very interesting, and more similar to the Valley ethos than one expects.

Because I used to think that software engineering was unique in that you could stare at a screen and intently tap keys to create works of great value to others. No natural resources required. But of course writing books and especially writing screenplays is similar.

Yet the political outlooks of your modal Hollywood screenwriter and your modal Silicon Valley startup engineer could not be more different. The former is usually quite liberal, while the latter probably leans libertarian on average.

Perhaps this is because software engineering is more about "right answers" than screenwriting. The empirical test in screenwriting is whether the screenplay gets optioned, and whether it makes any money at the box office. These would be analogous to investment and ultimately profits in a startup. Absent, though, is any obvious analog to compiler errors or smaller scale empirical tests for a screenplay. There is spellcheck, but it's at the level of syntax highlighting, not a REPL.

If screenwriters could write in emacs or vim and predict the sentiment response to regions of text by highlighting the region and sending it to a subprocess, that would be interesting. I suppose this is technically possible today if you piped the text to Mechanical Turk or ran some sort of automated sentiment analysis on it. Hmmm. It would be sort of interesting to backtest this on existing screenplays to see if MTurk or automated analysis could find predictors of box office hits. With the right featurization, would be surprising if there was no signal there at all.

The vast majority of writers have several people read what they write long before the 'option' and 'box office' comes into play. If you compare it to a software dev compiling = grammar / spelling in the word processor, self testing = reading what you just wrote, beta testers = beta readers, staging = people who don't know the author reading it, production = production, and maintenance = the sequel.

For the last 2 years I've had a job, ran a business in the evenings. Coded every night for as long as I can remember, even taught myself to code on said schedule. I'm 22, socialize Saturday night, the odd Friday night. Works.

Anyone can do it, you've just got to be prepared to throw the blood sweat and tears in. (Obviously my comments do not apply to those juggling families! You guys deserve medals of your own!)

Key takeaway: “Look, this may work for some people, and that’s great. But that’s not the kind of life I want to lead.” “Okay—then I guess you don’t want it that bad.”

It's great you get out on Saturday nights, but I hope one day you don't wake up to find yourself sad, lonely, bored and trying to figure out what it's all for...

The extended video version (Complete Secrets to Success! How bad do you want it?):


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