Writers’ Rooms

Image: xTabbyKatt

Contribute your stories to the “On Mornings” project RIGHT HERE.

When I was a teenager, I was on a TV show called 3rd Rock From The Sun. I loved my fellow actors on that show, but I also got quite close with another creative bunch — the writers. They all worked together in this seemingly magical place called the Writers’ Room. Of course there was nothing magical about the room on the surface; I remember the interior decor being aggressively bland. But the work they did there together felt like magic to me.

We’d get a new script every Wednesday, and by the next Tuesday, we were shooting it in front of a live studio audience. So we only had five working days to get it ready. There was a lot of rehearsing to do. But it wasn’t just the actors working on that episode during those five days. When the writers handed us the new script each Wednesday, they weren’t finished with that script, far from it, they were sorta just getting started.

The draft we’d get on Wednesday was always written by only one or two writers. But over the next week, ALL of the writers would dive into it, pitching new jokes, suggesting cuts, even creating entirely new scenes. It was all hands on deck. And usually, it was during this week of mass collaboration that the scripts went from good (or sometimes not so good) to great. And like I said, to me, that felt like magic.

I think a lot of us harbor a certain romantic image of “The Writer” as a lonely soul, sacrificing human contact at the altar of a battle-worn keyboard. There’s something heroic about the idea of accomplishing this herculean task in a shroud of solitude.

And don’t get me wrong, I enjoy writing by myself. It’s fun. But if I’m writing anything very substantial, if it’s something intended for an audience of readers, or especially if it’s a script intended for actors to work with… I prefer to get some input from others.

Getting “fresh eyes” on a piece of writing is invaluable. It’s so hard to be objective about something we’ve written by ourselves. A certain line or paragraph might make perfect sense to us, because we know what we were thinking when we wrote it. But does it make sense to somebody else? The only real way to know is to ask.

Collaborative writing can also serve as an antidote to “Blank Page Syndrome”. I know I’ve experienced this, feeling the urge to write, but not quite knowing what to write about. Oftentimes, I think we get our best ideas when we’re building off of something somebody else has already started.

Now then, if I’ve inspired you at all to give collaborative writing a try, perhaps I might gently inform you (and/or give you the shamelessly hard sell) that we’re starting a collaborative writing project right now on HITRECORD in partnership with Medium. If you’re not familiar with HITRECORD, it’s a community I started years ago where we work together on all kinds of collaborative projects: short films, books, music, TV shows, etc. And, as you now might imagine, the way we write together as a community is largely inspired by my experiences with Writers’ Rooms.

I recently made friends with Ev Williams, who founded Medium on ideals I enthusiastically applaud. I share his concerns that the evolution of online culture is becoming as much a hindrance as a help towards substantial creativity and rational discourse. I think (hope) that HITRECORD and Medium are each trying to address this in their own ways, so I’m excited for our companies to be teaming up.

The project is called “On Mornings”, and it’s gonna be a series of nonfiction pieces collaboratively written on HITRECORD and published on Medium. So yeah, if you wanna jump in, or you know, just check it out from a safe, lurkerly distance, you can find it here. Ev and I also made a video about it you can watch below.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading, now let’s get writing!