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Would You Thrive as a TV Writer? 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

If you're considering TV writing as a career, there are a few things you probably know already about yourself:

  • You like TV

  • You're creative

  • You enjoy episodic storytelling

But the practicality of getting into and thriving as a TV writer is a bit more complicated.

That's why I wanted to put down these four questions that will put into greater perspective what it actually means to write for TV.

These questions will illuminate the practical day-to-day of the TV writing world and tell you whether or not this profession is for you.

And we'll start with something really basic...

1. Do you like to write?

I know that sounds like a dumb way to start, but let me elaborate.

Many (actually, I would say most) people have an idea that they think would make a great TV series. That's all well and good.

But having an idea does not make someone a writer. Writing does.

Do you enjoy sitting down, alone, by yourself, and working out story problems for this fake world you've created in your head?

Do you enjoy criticizing what you've written, and having others criticize it and revising based on notes?

Do you get excited about the idea of sitting down and committing pen to paper for a new idea that you came up with over night?

If the answer is no to any of these, you might like the ideation aspect more than the TV writing aspect. And that's fine.

There are plenty of jobs, like producers and creative executives, who stand on that side of the creative spectrum.

Because if the majority of your feeling of achievement will come only from seeing your script on TV, then this is not the career for you. Most things never make it that far, even if you're successful.

You have to enjoy the writing.

2. What are your lifestyle goals?

Pursuing a career in the entertainment industry may seem like a calling. But you need to be sure that calling coalesces with your lifestyle goals.

This includes anything related to:

  • how much free time you like to have

  • how much money you'd like to make

  • whether you want to own a house before you're sixty

  • whether you want to live in a city

  • whether you like your days to be cleanly structured

It comes down to: are there goals you have for your personal life that require stability, like money, daily work structure, a path toward advancement, age-related milestones, etc.?

Some get lucky breaks and can work in the industry and make good money, and buy a house, and live wherever they want to live.

But 90% do not. And 100% have volatile schedules.

This is one of the most important practical considerations to keep in mind when considering a career in entertainment.

Be aware of what's important to you in life, and weigh that with the volatility of this industry.

3. Are you comfortable selling/networking?

When you're a TV writer, you can consider yourself a brand of one. And you are constantly meeting people and advertising your services.

Every connection you make in the industry has the possibility to lead to something greater. And you have to be comfortable standing up for your work.

You have to be comfortable putting your work out there and telling people this is what I'm here to do, and this is why I'm the best person for the job.

When I started pitching my own TV shows, I was shocked to see how much of this job was actually selling and not writing.

It's all about developing relationships so that many other people are comfortable enough to say yes to your idea or to hiring you as a writer.

4. Do you enjoy collaborating?

Despite the solitude of the writing process for your own samples, once you're in a writers' room, you're in a very collaborative environment.

And if you're high up on a show, then you're also collaborating with the entire crew, all the departments and the executives.

So, the heart of the question becomes, do you like working with people?

And, do you like working with people in this specific way?

A TV writers' room is like an all day long conference meeting. Everyone sits around a conference table and talks through stories from morning til night, and sometimes back around to the morning again.

That's the nature of the beast and it's certainly not for everybody.

Even within the pantheon of TV writers, there are differences

Everybody's TV writing journey looks different. And you can mold certain aspects of this career to make them work for you.

For example, Mike White, the creator of White Lotus, wanted to write all episodes himself, so there was no writers' room.

Some career writers never really try to sell their own shows. They are happy to be writers in a writers' room and flourish that way, without having to do the "hard sell" of pitching.

But for the most part, these are the facts you'll need to face and questions you'll need to answer before you enter the field.

That way you can avoid spending years getting to a point in your career only to realize this isn't what you want to do.


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I'm Anton, a TV writer and author of Breaking Into TV Writing, a book about the business of TV writing and how to get your foot in the door.


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