Serling’s Advice to Writers

As most writers know, ideas often come in a flash of inspiration. You’re reading, or walking, or driving, and … click. A seemingly perfect premise or angle appears in your head.

And all too often, that’s where it dies. We overthink it or overanalyze it to death. Or we get distracted and forget all about it. Rod Serling, however, had a different approach:

Serling Typewriter

The instinct of creativity must be followed by the act, the physical act of putting it down for a sense of permanence. Once you get that prod, that emotional jar, that “I have witnessed something.” Or “I have felt something.” Or “I have seen something.” Or, through observation, “I have been moved by an event.” I think the answer is, “Get it down. Get it down quickly. Write it down.”

Now very often, by virtue of the very enormity of the emotion, we will write it down in perhaps a distorted fashion, or an improper fashion, or an incorrect fashion, or your values may be a little juxtaposed. You may be too moved by the emotion. You haven’t stepped far enough away back to get a perspective of the event. But I think as a basic, overall thing, the clue to the writer, to the creator, is don’t let it die a-borning in the head. Don’t let it exist as just a simple memory that will move you, or will conjure up a beautiful tune later on.

It’s all too tempting to want to dwell on an idea for a few days (or longer). But there’s no reason this thought process can’t follow the act of writing it down, which can itself help sharpen and develop the idea.

If you’re anything like me, there’s a sense of not wanting to write anything until it’s beautifully outlined in your head. But that simply won’t happen. Think of any book, movie or TV show that you love — I can guarantee it started life as a half-baked idea that didn’t take any real shape until the writer forced himself to physically write something.

“Get it down.” That’s it in a nutshell.

Serling on Writing

Photo illustration courtesy of Wendy BrydgeFor a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

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About Paul

Hard-working, hard-playing fan of all pop culture, especially the Twilight Zone. Which led to a Twitter page. And then to a blog. And then to ... stay tuned. Yes, that's a picture of Rod Serling, not me. You can find the real me under the "Your Host" tab on my blog, along with biographical details that, while 100 percent accurate, sound kind of boastful and braggy. Sorry.

Posted on 04/26/2012, in Rod Serling and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Such simple – and difficult – advice! Thanks for posting Serling’s motivational words.

  2. Yes, thanks for the Serling advice (yes, a pun). It’s also very much in keeping with what Mr. Serling wrote…coming back from the grave…to give us mortals advice! Love it! Thanks, Paul–and thanks, Mr. Serling! :-]

  3. Thanks, guys! I’m glad you both found it useful. This was as much a kick in the pants to me as it is to anyone. I’m always walking around with a lot of half-baked ideas in my head, so Serling’s words really struck a chord with me.

  4. Reblogged this on Runnin Off at the Mouth…. and commented:
    Though Mr. Serling is talking about teleplay/screenwriting, there’s definitely something to his words for the novelists. Sometimes we can all think a bit too much and lose the magic, lose the energy (I’ve heard quite a few beginners say “…haven’t yet put anything in writing, but…”). I always loved to “vomit out” my first drafts, but in now trying to create an actual series, I find that ain’t happenin’. The dread outline is stalkin’ me..stalkin’ me BAD….

  5. Excellent article! Completely true and relevant to anyone in the art field, writers and painters alike. Always keep a pen and paper within arm’s reach, because you never know when your spark of inspiration will turn into a masterpiece! Who knows? You could pen the next Divina Commedia or paint the next Mona Lisa…

  6. Thanks, Wendy! I’ve learned the hard way to write any ideas down as quickly as possible. I’ve lost too many ideas because I was sure I wouldn’t forget. Big mistake. Now, I’ll admit the next Divine Comedy has yet to emerge from my pen, but if it ever decides to, I’m ready!

  7. High praise indeed, Gal Friday! I’m truly flattered. Thanks! :)

  8. Reblogged this on Seeker of Truth and commented:
    Who better to give writing advice than Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling? The man was an absolute genius and artist with a pen. His stories are imaginative, poignant and continue to be relevant 50+ years after they were first put to paper.

    For my first ever reblog, I want to share my favourite post of Paul’s, “Serling’s Advice to Writers”. This is advice that every blogger will benefit from.

    Read, learn, and apply!

    “The instinct of creativity must be followed by the act, the physical act of putting it down for a sense of permanence. Once you get that prod, that emotional jar, that “I have witnessed something.” Or “I have felt something.” Or “I have seen something.” Or, through observation, “I have been moved by an event.” I think the answer is, “Get it down. Get it down quickly. Write it down.”

  9. And as Stephen King says…….you have to learn to let it go! Editing and re-editing can drive you nuts. you have to learn to say………Okay, I’m finished here………what’s next!
    Hard to let go though.

  10. Everyday, every moment, is spent in the Twilight Zone. Today, yet again, I was ready to give up writing and surrender to a life I despised, but accepted as ‘reality’. See, a million ideas float around in my brain. However, because I have Asperger Syndrome(Like Henry Bemis. Sure he has all the time and books but he fate smashed his glasses), the act of recording it all into a full, smooth flowing narrative is difficult. While I write I’ve always edited and re-edited my stuff, thought it to death like a someone suffering from OCD. This post helped me in some odd way. Thank you Mr. Serling and thank you too Paul. My question here is did Rod mean write out the entire first draft or jot down the idea?

  1. Pingback: Gallery Feature: “A Portrait of the Artist at Twenty-Five” | Seeker of Truth

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