K’s Advice on Supporting the Writer

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More Than Your Average Support Team

As mentioned previously, I’m up to my eyeballs on two big projects through next week. My wife K suggested – begged – to provide a guest post this week. So, without further ado…

Regular Maximum Z readers know Paul has been at this for a long time. While he comments regularly on what it’s like to be a screenwriter and what is happening in the filmmaking world, he’s never addressed the world around him. As the long-time significant other, it’s my chance to give advice that you can choose to subtly share with those around you.

Although every creative couple is different, after 25+ yrs together, there are definite hits and misses of how to support your partner/spouse or guy/gal who writes.

They are:

First and foremost, they are the writer. Unless you are invited to give notes, you are NOT part of the writing process. It may be killing you inside, but no matter how much you just know it should be written differently, it’s not for you to say. I will confess there’s one script of Paul’s that my only feedback was: did you mean to make the protagonist look like an idiot in this scene? Yes, it was less than constructive notes, but I did wait to be asked.

Which leads to the second bit of advice: if you are invited to give notes, don’t be an asshole about it. The screenwriter is already getting that from so many others, including their own self-doubt. There is what should be an obvious line between giving feedback and ultimately rewriting a script to match what’s in your brain.

Rule of thumb: if you aren’t going to get WGA credit on the script, you shouldn’t be adding enough to have warranted it.

Third, know their writing schedule and style. Does your writer want breaks or is it heads down at the laptop until rewrites are complete? There’s a scene from TRUMBO where Bryan Cranston writes sitting in a tub. He yells at his teenage daughter for bothering him to mention they are singing Happy Birthday to her. Luckily, Paul doesn’t take his laptop into the tub, but we have arranged for the dog not to visit her favorite human when he’s at his desk.

My fourth suggestion is probably the hardest and most controversial. Don’t say “I know you will be successful.” Or, “it will happen with this script, I just know it.” No. You don’t know it.

In Jim Collins‘ book From Good to Great, he talks about the difference between being confident and being an optimist. The gist of it is the optimist believes so much that things will work out in the universe if they believe hard enough. That is a recipe for disappointment. In contrast, being confident in someone’s ability means that you believe they have the ability to do what they’ve set up to do.

That means for as much as I know I’m married to a talented writer and for as much as I love him to pieces, I can’t promise him it will work out. It hurts, but it’s the truth. I do know that if he continues to work as hard as he does and shows his scripts to the right people, he has the ability to be successful.

Ultimately, that’s the rub. We love ’em. We support ’em. Now, we need to get out of their way.

Bye for now.