Create: Day 83
The lessons of Glee
I may be the only person in America not watching the hit TV series Glee, but after a conversation with my friend Karma Kathy, who’s a fan (or Gleek, as they’re called), I wondered about the show’s genesis.
What I found offers excellent habithacking lessons.
It all started five years ago with a fellow named Ian Brennan, who had been in his high school’s choir and was now a working actor. When Brennan heard that a choir director from his former school had been convicted of sexual abuse, he thought the subject might make a good movie.
He’d never written before. “So I bought Screenwriting for Dummies,” he said in an interview, “loaded screenwriting software into my computer and wrote…I figured if I didn’t write it, someone else would, and then I’d always be kicking myself.”
The first draft of Glee, a film, was finished in 2005. He shopped it around for years. No one was interested.
Then a friend of his got the screenplay to Ryan Murphy (veteran of Nip/Tuck).
Murphy was no stranger to the difficulties of trying to break in as an L.A. writer. Before Murphy had a hit with Nip/Tuck, he’d had his own failures in turning his TV pilots into series.
Murphy also clearly remembered his own tortured high school days—during which he’d tried to stand out by wearing a neck tie every day. He had suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia, and notes, “I was always trying to look smart because I didn’t feel smart.” Murphy could also relate to Glee, as he’d been one of “The Singing Hoosiers” during college. He suggested the movie would work better as TV show, so he brought in his Nip/Tuck colleague Brad Falchuk to help rewrite the script.
Fox network gave the series a try, and the rest is history.
Brad Falchuk explains the popularity of the show this way: “The point of the show is that every teenager is a geek. Every teenager feels a wanting, a desire for something more, to be heard, to be seen… I think the show is working for people of all ages, though because that feeling never really goes away.”
Falchuk, too, has faced challenges. He was diagnosed with a serious spinal cord abnormality and had to undergo emergency surgery. This informed the Glee episode “Wheels” which deals with one character’s disabilities and the need for wheelchair transportation.
So what lessons can habithackers take from the unlikely success of this show?
1. Find inspiration for art through your real life experiences. (Brennan and Murphy’s glee club experiences were such an unsuspected source.)
2. If you don’t know how to write/paint/act/sing/whatever—get a book, take a class—learn how to turn inspiration into art. (“So I bought Screenwriting for Dummies…” I love this!)
3. It’s better to try, create your art, rather than live with the regrets of never giving it a shot. (“If I didn’t write it…then I’d always be kicking myself.” How many of us don’t even give it a try?)
4. Don’t give up on your art, even if you repeatedly get turned down. (It took Brennan years to find interest in his script.)
5. Rely on your friends. Network. (Brennan was living in New York and continuing to work as an actor when his L.A. friend gave the script to Murphy.)
6. You’re smarter than you think you are. (Murphy was smart…it was only dyslexia that prevented him from knowing it.)
7. Be willing to make changes to your original concept. (I wonder how difficult it was for Brennan to give up his silver screen ambitions. Probably not very, given that nothing had come of his hard work for so many years.)
8. Collaborate. (All three now write the series together.)
9. Take your challenges and tragedies and turn them into art. (By all accounts, it shows that Falchuk brought hard-fought wisdom to his handicapped character.)
10. Most of all, realize there’s more to you than the everyday drudgery you sometimes feel mired in. As Brennan said in an interview in describing the aspirations of the glee club kids: “I find it interesting that there is something in everybody, a longing for something transcendent…”
Create Month 3
What to do so far:
In case you missed a day, the reminders below are clickable.
Turn unproductive activity into creativity.
Kill the angel and tell the truth.
Try ephemeral art.
Take a road trip.
Implement the 7 habits of creative people.
Don’t wait for inspiration.
Avoid online undermine.
Create at any age.
Make a portable Creation Station.
Use something taboo in your art.
Implement unplugged weekends.
Find a mentor or be one.
On the Ides, I’d rather…
Support arts education.
Get older and let your creative brain cells branch.
Start a new project: fill out a completion plan.
Enliven creativity by getting out in nature.
Take on a new creative identity.
Spend more time on creative ventures.
Look for places on your schedule to add creative time.
Take heart & lessons from the creators of Glee.