Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Grabbing the Zebra, and Other Survival Tactics for Writers

Earlier this week, a dear writer friend shared her most important survival instinct with me.

My friend--I'll call her "Jane"--is the creator of a popular children's sitcom, and an uber-successful writer. She also happens to be deathly afraid of animals. Especially wild animals.

Jane's fear of the wild is regularly put to the test during production season, mostly because her show's cast includes a 7-foot Asian Water Monitor Lizard. Although Mr. Lizard looks like a refugee from Jurassic Park, he's usually a docile fellow. (But, as Jane notes, "His handlers make sure to feed him before he goes onstage." Hungry 7-foot Asian Water Monitor Lizards get cranky, evidently.)

In addition to the lizard, last week Jane's show featured a zebra: It was a cute but extremely nervous zebra. (Sharing walkons with a dinosaur probably didn't help the zebra's stage fright). 

Jane was onstage typing up some production notes when  the zebra's handlers let him stretch his legs nearby. Somehow the animal managed to slip his rope, whereupon he bolted. And of course, he bolted straight toward Jane.

Jane kept her head. She pushed Save. Only then did she add, "Would someone grab that zebra?" 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen--even under the most extreme duress, my courageous writer friend remembered to Save Her Work.

So that's Jane's most valuable tip for the week. What about yours? What's your most important habit as a writer, the one that has gotten you through thick and thin? We want to know!


  1. To remind myself to just write. I can always rewrite it but to do that I have to write it first.

  2. In the handful of occasions I've found myself a little too close to a moose or bear in my Alaskan paradise saving my files was admittedly not on my mind.

    But yes...save, save, save when writing.

    And make sure to relax a bit, life is not writing, writing stories is a product of life.

  3. Basil, I was just rereading Stephen King's ON WRITING, and he had a similar note: to remember that art supports life, not the other way around. Stephen B., yours is a crucial one. Before anything else, one must GBTS (glue butt to seat!).

  4. ROTFL!!!!! What a hoot. Thanks for that reminder.

    BK Jackson

  5. This was awesome. Save under duress --she gets my hero writer award. My most important tip is a little wine after a good day writing. Hmmm, upon reflection it seems a little anticlimactic, but I swear it's a good idea.

  6. I would benefit from "more writing, less social media."

  7. More writing for sure -- keeping your momentum is the key. Even if you can't write every day it's important to keep the DESIRE to write every day and act on that desire at every opportunity.

  8. Julie, I second your vote for a wee glass of wine to finish off a hard day's work. Mark you're right, but I'm addicted. Is there a 12 step program for social media addicts? Howard, you put your finger on it--keeping the joy of writing is key. BK, you're welcome! Her story made me laugh too.

  9. Funny zebra story, K.

    I have no writer survival tactics. And this is weird since I am one of those people who has a Swiss Army knife in her purse and an extra leash in my trunk in case I see a stray dog, and I alway look for the nearest exit on planes.

    I NEED writer tactics. I am always losing work and never remember to save to an external drive even though I have one velcroed to my laptop. It even has a name, Herman, becuz I thought if I named him I would not ignore him.

    1. I need better survival tactics too, Kris! But I will pick up on your dog-leash-in-the-car habit--I've found wandering dogs a couple of times, and a leash would be a great help!