Writing at Gunpoint

You know the routine… meet someone new, and one of the first questions is: “So, what do you do?”  My answer, “I’m a television producer” is usually followed by their quissical response, “And what does a television producer do?”  It’s a good question!  On any given day I could be doing any one of a great variety of things… negotiating, formatting, editing, flying, shooting, invoicing… the list is endless.

One thing I find myself doing every single day is writing… and writing on a deadline. Or, as I like to say, writing with a shotgun held to my head.

My first real experience of writing at gunpoint was in my journalism and news writing classes at the University of New Hampshire with Pulitzer Prize winning writers Don Murray and Andrew Merton.  The very first class we were given instruction on the inverse pyramid and then told some facts and assigned to spin around to the manual typewriter behind each seat and write a news story before the end of class. I think we had about 30 minutes left at that point.  [note: this was on a manual typewriter – not a computer – no spellcheck, no cut and paste, just a blank sheet of paper and if you screw up you start over.]  I went through a lot of paper that day, and realized that I actually like the adreneline rush of the news business.

Today, 30 something years later, I am still writing and the deadlines are always looming.  Somedays, the words flow like water going downhill, but on others every successful thought that makes it to the page is a major effort.

I’ve had a spotty track record on this blog.  I’ll write every day for a while and then the deadlines, stress and dodged bullets of the real world pile up and I retreat away from another blank screen – sometimes for months.  I have enough forced deadlines in my professional writing – so I justify cutting myself some slack on my non-paid writing, like this blog.

But if you’re facing a blank screen and can’t get the words to come, and the deadline is so close you can feel its breath on your neck… just start writing.  Just the very act of pushing the keys makes it easier to keep going.  The Nike slogan works here:  “Just do it”.  The words will come… just get started.

Posted on December 18, 2009 in Uncategorized

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