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140 Hours

January 31, 2011

(Just as a quick heads up, this is a more personal post and less informative, so feel free to ignore and or leave angry comments.  I needed to put this in writing so that I feel more obligated to do what I plan to do…)

A while ago, there was a post on The Spec Life about about a podcast interview with the late (and great) Stephen J. Cannell.  I HIGHLY recommend you listen to the podcast, as I would venture to say that it might be the greatest, most inspirational interview about screenwriting that I have ever heard.  The one part that stuck out the most was a statistic about the amount of writing that Cannell did each day.  Five hours.  Every day.  Even when he was on vacation.  And it’s not like he wrote like this after he became a professional writer and quit his day job.  Nope.  He wrote for five hours every day, for six years before he ever got his first paid writing job.  There’s a lot of good stuff and he goes into more detail about it, but I won’t spoil any more of the podcast…so go listen to it…NOW!

So, I’ve been thinking about how lazy I am and I’ve come to the realization that I don’t actually work hard enough to deserve any amount of success as a writer.  I’ll trick myself into believing that “thinking about my scripts” for a month before I write is helpful and productive…but after 30 days with zero pages written, I just feel lazy.  I figure 2011 is as good a year as any to make a strong attempt at becoming a writer.  Scratch that, I am a writer.  What I need is to become a good writer, a productive writer, a writer with some sort of visible freaking work ethic.

What’s the best way to set myself up for a productive year? I’m going to take a page out of Cannell’s Work Ethic for Writers Handbook and make an attempt to write for an average of five hours per day during the month of February. 140 total hours. If my girlfriend doesn’t leave me afterwards, maybe I’ll see how long I can keep the streak going.  Now, I realize how insignificant my small goal is compared to Cannell, but compared to my current routine this is an over 400% increase in writing.

Why February? I wanted to do it near the beginning of the year, but I didn’t want it to be a New Year’s Resolution (vomit…”one key coming up”), since those normally turn into “The First Week of January Resolutions.”  It also gave me a month to look at as an example of what not to do.  I didn’t get a whole lot done in January and it shows.

What counts toward my goal? Any type of sitcom/screenplay related writing.  This includes blog posts (yes, there should be an increase in those this month) and writing script notes for people I’ve swapped with (If I have one of your scripts, I haven’t forgotten about you…sorry…I’m hoping to catch up this month).

Anyone else care to join me?

Fun Fact: Many of you have heard about the 10,000-hour rule; i.e. it takes at least 10,000 hours of doing something before you can become great at it.  Well, using Cannell as an example, 5 hours x 365 days x 6 years = 10,950 hours before he got his big break.  Just something to think about…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Christopher permalink
    February 1, 2011 3:33 am

    As writers, it’s natural for us to live in our own heads and be content with the *idea* of our aspirations, rather than actually taking the initiative to finally achieve them. Our imaginations are so vivid, we find ourselves lulled to sleep by our hopes. And if we continue to follow that path, we’ll never wake up in time to live out our dreams. I’m tired of wallowing in plan after plan, ill-fated goal after ill-fated goal. It’s time to finally do it.

    So I’m right there with you. This is MY month. With my Nick Fellowship due, and my feature script needing work, this is the time for me to get serious about being a writer. If this is who I am, and this is who I say I want to be, then it’s time for me to become that person.

    Even if I can’t write for five hours, I vow to commit good, honest material to paper every day. Notes, outlines, beats, scenes, pages, etc. Whatever it takes.

    • February 1, 2011 2:27 pm

      @Christopher Exactly – I especially agree with your comment that “we find ourselves lulled to sleep by our hopes. And if we continue to follow that path, we’ll never wake up in time to live out our dreams.” Now there’s a quote for an inspirational poster! Good luck with you scripts and the Nick Fellowship.


  1. 72 Hours… « the [eventual] sitcom writer

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