The Writer's Secret


When you join the Writers Guild of America you learn the secret handshake and take the Pledge. The Pledge is supposed to be secret also, but I'm past my Peak Earning Years, so I don't give a damn. Here it is: I pledge never to reveal how easy writing is. Instead, I will always maintain it's really, really hard.

It's short because writers aren't too smart, and if it was longer they wouldn't be able to remember it. There's a penalty for revealing it, which is that they take your little membership card away, and so you can't get in free to movies during the Awards Season (Sept. - Feb.) which caused me to hesitate. But on the other had it's a bit of a payback for the Scourge of Ageism. Ageism is a very Bad Thing, except for when I was a young writer myself. Then it was OK, because it helped me get jobs which should have gone to more experienced writers who knew what they were doing. Now it's not OK anymore, because I'm the one who knows what I'm doing, and these young idiots are getting my jobs. Here is why: when I was young, I was presumed to have a special insight into the souls of other young people. Young people, who aren't yet married and aren't raising children, go out to eat, they go out to movies, and most important, they have not yet formed a deep and lasting commitment to a brand of laundry detergent.

By revealing the Pledge, I realize more people might try to be writers, because it's so easy, and statistically that may include some talented people. It's not so important whether they are talented or not, but it's better to have fewer competitors in the pool, and a bit more comfortable to have fewer talented competitors, though like I said, that doesn't matter too much.

You know how they say it's 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration? I hate to tell you this, but nobody ever got a writing job in movies or TV by perspiring. The air conditioning in most offices you work in is excellent. You get hired by luck, like having a close relative or maybe a college roommate who happens to be doing the hiring. There is some talent involved: if you're real good at parties, that's helpful. But you don't have to be good at parties. If your writing partner is good at parties, that's just as good.

Another thing about writing. It's not actually "work." If you happen to get a job writing for TV, you go to an office, and if you live at some distance from that office in the Southern California area where most are located, you have to fight through traffic to get there, which is a little like work, but you don't really have to show up much before 10 AM. When you get there, you find a lot of people are working. In fact, everybody on a TV show works, except the writers. The writers just write. If you're the partner who's good at parties, you don't even have to write, just go to parties, and maybe network a little.

One more thing is that writing is just like talking only not as loud. In fact, if you like, you can talk to your computer, and the computer does the writing. But even if you insist on "writing" to save your voice for talking later on, it's just not at all like digging a ditch. Writers complain a lot about The Blank Page, and Writer's Block. That's part of what you agree to do for the Writers Guild, along with complaining about agents, who don't understand you, and producers, network and studio executives, who are jerks. (Actually, the last part is true.) But there's a real easy cure for Writer's Block which is, go out and get a real job where working is required. You don't even have to get a job digging a ditch. You could become a lawyer or a doctor. Then you could get a writing job on a show about lawyers or doctors, and like most of the writers on these shows, who used to be lawyers or doctors, just thinking about having to go back to those jobs and do actual work is enough to take care of Writers Block and The Blank Page. It will also get you through the agony of rejection. Rejection, I know, is very agonizing, but you don't have to get up early in the morning to be rejected. And you don't have to shower afterwards. A drink or two will get you through it, generally.

So now you know, and if you're reading this (the ability to read is helpful, but not always necessary for a writer) you can go out and become a highly paid writer for TV and movies. But please don't start writing books. I have now become an author and write books, since I'm too old for the serious money in TV and movies.