In last week's cranesketch roundup, an article by Mellisa Mitas on Tina Fey, included this quote from Fey's book Bossypants; "The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.” It reminded me of how I felt when I got a job on the writing staff at MADtv. For the first time in my life, I had to write sketches on a schedule; pitch every Monday, drafts every Friday, table reads with the network every Tuesday. Before MADtv I would more or less write sketches whenever the inspiration hit, which meant I produced about half a sketch every couple of months, if I was lucky. Now, I was expected to write two or three sketches a WEEK. No extensions. No excuses. No waiting for the muse. It seemed an impossible task and I was certain the producers would see what a terrible mistake they made by hiring such an unproductive moron.
I quickly discovered however, that deadlines pushed me in ways I hadn't pushed myself before. During the first 13 weeks of my contract, I wrote between 25 and 30 sketches and was more productive than I had ever been before. To be sure, not all of them were GOOD sketches, and there were many long nights, head banging and primal screams emanating from my office (and others as well) but in the end, I always had something to show by the time the clock ran out. I wrote in order to survive. I suppose that's why they're called deadlines. Miss them, and you die. Of course, making a deadline is much harder to do when it's self-imposed. We tend to give ourselves a break for not showing up. We'll say, "I don't know what to write about. I've got other stuff to do. I'll write as soon as I'm done binge watching Bridgerton." So what do we do? How can we gain the benefits of deadlines on our own? How can we be held accountable so that we can produce more? I have a few thoughts. How about a writing class? (You knew I would get here at some point, right?)
Every one of my workshops contain deadlines that help you produce a multitude of first drafts - one of the biggest hurdles we writers face. At the end of Building the Talk Show Packet, you'll have a draft of monologue jokes, recurring segment pitches and an original pitch for a talk show. In the cranesketch Primer, you'll finish with first drafts of three sketches; a character sketch, a premise based sketch and a parody sketch. In Building the Sketch Packet, you'll write a commercial parody, a topical sketch, and one or two of your own original sketches. Character In Place takes the process a step further and includes a deadline for two sketches and a film shoot. Of course, we learn other things in our workshops, but it's the deadline that makes you realize that you can be far more productive than you imagine. Deadlines are not the enemy, they are the champions of productivity. If you're ready to see how much you can accomplish, sign up for one of the cranesketch writing classes. Heck, it doesn't have to be a cranesketch class, it could be any writing class. If you're one of those rare creatures who can stick to a self-imposed deadline, congratulations. If not, take a class already!