Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Comedy Writer--No Longer on Strike

(The following post is the second piece contributed by Steve Young, a television writer for Late Night with David Letterman, and the father of star Writopia Lab writer, Rebecca Shubert. Young has been generous enough to share his thoughts on writing, writing professionally, and on the current Writers Guild of America strike.)

Hello again Writopia Lab people,

Steve Young, the striking comedy writer here again. Except now I'm not on strike anymore. As you may have heard, David Letterman's company, which owns both The Late Show and The Late Late show, made a side deal with the Writers Guild. Dave's company basically agreed to what the Guild was asking for. It only puts a 20 or so writers back to work, but it was the first step in the "divide and conquer" strategy that the Writers Guild decided to pursue. Just yesterday we learned that a movie studio, United Artists, has made a similar deal. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, these small deals aren't the end of the strike, or even the beginning of the end, but they may be the end of the beginning.

Within a day or so of being back at work, it felt like I'd never left. All the old
habits and procedures came back, even after two months off. But the strike is never
far from our minds. We know our friends and colleagues are still out picketing and
still wondering when they'll start earning money again, and we're trying to help in
various ways like doing material about the strike on the show and sending a portion
of our salaries to the Guild's Strike Fund.
Though I know the strike has been very tough on many people, I'll always
look back fondly at my time away from work. It taught me a couple of things: I'm
quite happy not spending my life at a job. I like wandering around the city, doing a
little of this and a little of that, and being home to have dinner with my family.

However, it also turns out that I also enjoy writing. I'd been doing it for so long
under such pressure that I thought there was a good chance that I'd be happy
quitting cold turkey. But after only a week of the strike, I was ready to start
writing little humor pieces for
. It wasn't really like work; it was whatever I wanted to do. Okay, I wasn't making a dime, but I was having fun thinking of ideas, working on them, tweaking them and improving them until they were just right, and putting them out there for the world to read. I'd returned to some essential core of what got me going on my career in the first place.

I hope you will all be able to hold onto that essential core of why you write, even
when it's a struggle. It's a wonderfully satisfying feeling to wrangle and wrestle
words until you've made them convey just what you want. Of course, it's also a wonderfully satisfying feeling to get paid for it. But I'm glad to have proven to
myself that I'm not just doing it for the money.

Feel free to ask me any questions about the strike or about comedy writing.


Lily said...

I was very interested to hear about that writers guild update; it is great that some people--if only a marginal amount--are back at work making the world a funnier place under good working terms. It is also a very cool realization to know that you write just for the fun of it and that you would continue to even without making "a dime". Too often i opt out of writing to do something else in my spare time when there is no schoolwork or--ahem--competition involved. Sometimes i do though, and it is quite nice.

Nico said...

Sometimes, when we have to write, we forget what makes it so magical. Perhaps the greatest part of growing tired of writing is falling in love with it all over again -- it's what I live for. Thank you for your insight, Mr. Young.