17. The importance of listening
This may be a strange topic to start off the New Year with, but as I woke up this morning I realised that throughout my career I’ve learned some important lessons that I want to share with you.
If I’m honest, in the early stages of my career I was pretty insecure. As with many new writers, my lack of confidence showed itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes during meetings I was so worried that my inexperience would be ‘found out’, I'd spend the hour talking about myself and my ideas rather than truly listening. Since I believed that each precious new opportunity was simply a matter of ‘luck’ (rather than skill or talent), I thought the only thing I could do was to sell myself.
My first big lesson came when I was invited to attend my first LA writers room. It was for a series on Fox, and out of a group of nine experienced writers, I was the only woman. I remember thinking that the best thing I could do would be to keep my mouth shut and hope that I would walk out with one assigned script. As a result, I really listened, and what happened was nothing less than career-changing. It was like a mirror had been held up to me as I watched the network executive give a strong, clear brief of the series concept and characters which was followed by an hour of ruckus as the other writers tried to outdo each other in their attempts to impress her. It was as if they hadn’t even been listening and I could tell she was not impressed.
And then I had my moment to speak, and what I said was clear and to the point and somehow captured the heart and soul of what the series was about – and what she obviously wanted. From that moment on, she spoke directly to me and the rest of the conversation was between the two of us. I’m guessing the other writers were not happy, but ever since then I have tried to put my insecurities aside, focus on the task at hand and listen intently to each new brief.
And by the way, I walked out of that room with not only two episodes, but with a champion who would go on to recommend me for years to come!