Community//

From One TV Writer to Another

writing tips when you're in it for the long haul

Photo of Anne Marie Cummings taken by Jin Kim, Los Angeles. 

I started writing when I was six years old. Journals that is. My first journal was this Disney World journal with a small key that opened it, and my first entry went something like this: “I have a crush on George.” Yep, even at six years old I was into boys, and George at that! He sat next to me in English, Math, and Science, and got better grades than I did because he was a brainiac and I was…well…a writer.

I wrote journals until my late 20’s, and then my journals turned into plays and then my plays – 20 years after that – turned into my first digital drama series: “Conversations in L.A.”

“Conversations in L.A.” flowed out of me and the dialogue wouldn’t stop, and now that I’m in pre-production for Season Three, I spend hours and hours in front of the computer dreaming and writing away.

I love it, hands down, but writing isn’t as easy as watching your favorite TV show, that’s for sure! Writing is tough and every writer knows that. So here are 10 of my very own personal tips that might be useful to anyone out there who’s writing to their hearts content like I am…

1. FOCUS

As motivator Tony Robbins puts it: “Where energy goes, energy flows.” In order to carry out the mission of a series, you have to get focused and know how to sustain that focus. Some writers use music. Some writers start at the crack of dawn. Some writers plan the night before. Some writers day-dream one day, and then write the next. Setting goals will help. For example: “I’ll write 20 pages today!” And then give yourself a treat. “If I write 20 pages today, I’ll treat myself to three scoops of double chocolate chip ice cream!”

2. PERSISTENCE

There are so many times when you’ll feel like giving up, but if you make the decision that you won’t give up and that you’ll revisit the reasons as to why you got started in the first place, then you’re bound to keep going. Reminding yourself, particularly during those down times, why you’re doing what you’re doing, lifts your spirits! That and becoming your own damn cheerleader! On the days you’ve had a hard time saying “Ra-ra-RE, I’m-betting-on-ME,” find some random online therapist who’ll be that person for you (and yes, there are PLENTY of ‘em out there who actually give good, FREE advice!)

3. TUNNEL VISION

You’ll be in a tunnel for a very long time with a series, so it’s best to know that before you get started. Tunnels are dark and you need your own light to see your way out, so YOU have to be the light. As every writer knows, writing is a mental puzzle that you have to get used to finding your way out of. And speaking of mental – writers know, oh-so-well, that writing can be mentally exhausting, so it’s okay to stop and rest in the tunnel and then still be there the next day. This is part of every writer’s journey.

4. ALONE TIME

Sometimes we need alone time and sometimes it’s the last thing we want in the world, but when you’re writing and working on a series, you spend more time with your characters than anything and anyone else. This is why alone time – with yourself sans iPhone – away from your characters and the stories you’re writing – is extremely important. As fun as it can be to live (and stay) in your fantasy world, ya gotta check in with yourself every once in a while because whether you like it or not – reality does exist!

5. FORGET THE NORM

Look, you gotta hear this from someone – it really is okay if you don’t live like most of society. Most of society – unless they’re in the entertainment industry – lives a nine-to-five lifestyle, or some version of that. But you – you’re a writer and your schedule often revolves around your writing. I get it! Other writers get it! We all know what it’s like when your non-writer friends and family want to play tennis, hit the mall, and take a day trip with you when all you want to do is write! My advice: Go to the mall and take a day trip every blue moon. Friends and family are important, and your outing will give you plenty to write about!

6. BELIEVE IN YOU

If you have a vision, then believe in it. If you don’t, then who will? You have to believe, even if the people around you don’t. Don’t worry what other people think. They’ll believe in you the day you get an Oscar! When you believe in yourself, you create a path for yourself. So believe and believe fully. Sure we all have moments of doubt, and that’s normal, but don’t let doubt kill your spirit. If you’re going after your dreams, then just go – and don’t forget to take God or whatever or whoever you believe in – with you – even if it’s just your cool cat!

7. REST YOUR HEAD

Writing is emotionally draining if you’re really doing it and fully engaged. Heck, even if you’re not! Staring at a blank space on your computer can be exhausting too! So let yourself lie down on the couch for an hour or two, even if you’ve only been writing (or just thinking) for fifteen minutes. Don’t place too many rules on yourself when you’re working. If you need to rest, rest. If you need to eat, eat. If you need to get a haircut, get a haircut. Do what you need to do, as long as you come back and write.

8. EXERCISE

I can’t say enough about this one. Truth is, coffee, dear friends, is not enough to get the juices flowing. Ya gotta move and take a physical break every once in a while! We all know that exercise is good for you physically, but for us writers it does other wonders. Did you know that it can help you solve all kinds of writing problems you come up against in a writing session? All that deep breathing from running or walking or lifting weights has a miraculous way of freeing your mind and stimulating the creative juices. Guarantee it!

9. WRITING BOARD

Each of us writers develops our own style for plotting out a story, so find your style, no matter how crazy it might seem. I have a board on my wall that’s full of different colored sticky notes, and different colors mean different things. There’s nothing like the day I go to Staples to buy my pink, yellow, and blue sticky notes. It’s like going to the coffee shop for cake! So find your style – whatever it is to help set yourself free with your ideas. If you like writing on the floor with chalk – do it! If you like using an eraser board – do it! If you like sniffing Play-Doh, why the hell not?

10. MAS-SAAAH-GE

I know you’ll all love this one! Yes-sir-ee! Massage-a-roony! Let’s face it, no matter how many chairs are out there, made especially to support your back while sitting at the computer for eight hours a day, your back is still gonna ache! So give yourself the gift of a massage on a somewhat regular basis. Writing is tough stuff and it can be hard on your body, but massage is the perfect incentive to meet your goals!

Seasons One and Two of the 3X Daytime Emmy-nominated series, “Conversations in L.A.” – are now on #Amazon and #iTunes. For more information you can visit www.conversationsinla.com.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.