Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Five Things Roger Sterling Taught Us About Writing

I'm a huge fan of the show Mad Men, and was so sad when it ended last year. I loved the character development and dialogue, and one of my favorite characters in the show was Roger Sterling. He showed up more for "quips" than conversations, but he was one of the most quotable characters in the entire series.

 So, without further ado, here are five things Roger Sterling taught us about the writing life.

"Nobody knows what I'm doing. It's good for mystique." (S2, E5)

The takeaway: Yes, you want to be a writer. Own it. Tell the world. That doesn't mean you have to give away your secrets. You don't have to tell Aunt Ida every last detail about your work in progress. In fact, I wonder if we don't lose some of the magic of the story every time we give a little bit of it away. There will be a time to promote yourself and talk about your work; I'm just not sure if that time is in the middle of writing it. Keep your words close to you.

The exception: This doesn't apply to brainstorming with fellow writers or agents or editors (i.e. people who can legitimately help you).  

Otherwise, assure them you're working hard and let their minds fill in the blanks. Writing novels is rarely as exciting as outsiders think it is. 
"I'm going to count to three, and then I'm gonna start saying a lot of words you don't like, sweetheart." (S4, E7) 

The takeaway: Spew the crap. All of it. Get your story onto paper as fast as you can and don't look back. Count to three and let it all out. Write now; revise later. 

"What do you think Accounts does, besides limit your brilliance? (S3, E9)

The takeaway: You know that old saying about too many cooks in the kitchen? I think enlisting the help of friends, family members, writer's groups, editors, beta readers, etc. can be a good thing. With too many differing opinions, however, there are potential hazards. Feedback is great, but not at the expense of losing your story or voice. If you don't feel comfortable with a suggestion or see how it will make the story better, let it go. At the end of the day, it's your name on the cover. 

"My mother always said be careful what you wish for, because you'll get it, and then people get jealous and try to take it away from you." (S4, E6) 

The takeaway: If you're a writer, there's plenty drama going on in your head at any given time. Don't compound this by letting outside drama in, too. There are too many haters and not enough creators in the world. Stay away from the people who want to bring you down.

"Not to get too deep before the cocktail hour, but do I need to remind you of the finite nature of life?" (S2, E7)

You've got one life--one opportunity; don't squander it. If there's a book inside you, get it out. Don't look back five, ten, or fifteen years from now wishing you picked differently. Take the smallest, most manageable first step today. Your future self will thank you.

Be Brilliant!