I have a strong urge to dropkick the TV whenever I see The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family. It’s nothing against the shows themselves or the casts.
A while back, I had a scriptwriting teacher who told the class we should write like these mainstream shows. He wasn’t very subtle about it.
The problem: not everybody can write like them.
Everybody’s humor is different. Some people like Family Guy, while others like Schitt’s Creek. One writer’s style won’t satisfy everybody’s taste. They can definitely make money from their works, it doesn’t have to be Modern Family quality to be successful. Tropic Thunder(2008) is one of my favorite comedies of all time, while somebody else will find the movie atrocious.
You don’t have to write like everybody else to be a profitable writer, whether you’re a scriptwriter, a novelist, blogger, or a poet. Stay true to yourself. Your audience will find you if you stay consistent.
My old scriptwriting teacher made it seem like you will never get famous if you don’t write like every renowned writer. Your screenplay wouldn’t win an Oscar if you didn’t write like Francis Ford Coppola or Woody Allen.
These guys got to their positions for being original, not copy-cats. Agatha Christie and Octavia Butler were inspired, prolific writers, but they were also incredibly unique and creative.
What I Wish My Class Taught Me
Besides my instructor’s comments that memorable day, I wished I’ve learned the following:
1. Stay Creative
You have your own imaginary worlds at your fingertips. You can do whatever the heck you want with them. You have no limits, and nobody should tell you otherwise.
2. Your Writing Can Help People
The world is always starving for stories. You see it on Ted Talks, on Netflix. Those binge-watchers are devouring episode after episode trying to figure out what happens next to their beloved characters.
Studios are desperately searching for more scripts to develop. You think they’re not, but what’s with all the recent remakes?
People still go to bookstores and libraries because they want stories. You can use your skills to satisfy their hunger. Fortunately, you have an unlimited supply all in your mind.
3. Stay Consistent
Writing one thing and never doing anything else doesn’t make you a writer. Writing throughout your life does.
Spanish playwright Lopé de Vega reportedly created over 1,000 plays, a little over 400 of them survive to this day. Romance author Barbara Cartland swooned the world with her romance novels, 723 in total (some in different genres). Akira Kurosawa, famous for his samurai films, has directed and written movies for over 50 years.
Writing is more than a job; it’s a major part of your entire being.
You’re not born to be a copy of any famous writer. You definitely don’t have to include any “Bazinga” humor in your scripts to be funny. Write whatever the heck you want, as long as you’re consistent and honest.
Don’t let anybody else tell you how to write (unless you’re a serial grammar criminal). As long you enjoy what you’re writing, and you have an audience, who gives a f*ck?
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