Lessons From Mamet’s Masterclass

Blame the Facebook ads. But I’ve been on a masterclass kick.

Several months ago, I signed up for the all-you-can-stream version of the service. Every morning, when walking my dog, I listen to some of today’s most famous working writers explain how they approach their craft. So far, I’ve taken full courses from David Mamet, Shonda Rhimes, Joyce Carol Oates, and Margaret Atwood. I’m now listening to Dan Brown on the art of the thriller.

I thought it might be fun to share one tidbit that I’ve learned from each of them during the remainder of my blogging days this week. So, here goes.

David Mamet–Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Glengarry Glen Ross, and author of so many published and performed works that they are listed in alphabetical categories on his Wikipedia page–had the following to say about becoming a successful writer:

“Do one thing for your art every day, and do one thing for your business every day.”

–David Mamet, MasterClass

Sometimes, being a working writer is overwhelming for me. I pen at least one book a year, sometimes two. Often I am promoting one book while actively editing one and trying to write another. However, because the writing hours are flexible and the money is variable, I constantly put my career on the back-burner to fill my responsibilities as a full-time mom to two young kids, wife, daughter, friend, and Chief Operating Officer of our household.

When I can’t write a chapter every day, I feel terribly guilty. When I don’t do something promotional, I feel horribly guilty. When I demand my uninterrupted writing time, and miss my eldest daughter’s soccer game, I feel horribly, terribly guilty.

When I miss Bouchercon–as I did recently–because the flights were unusually expensive (I could have gone to Australia for the same price), at really odd times, and I wanted to spend Halloween with my kids before they don’t care about it anymore, I feel horribly, terribly, extremely guilty.

What Mamet’s advice does for me, is free me from some of that guilt. If I can do just one thing for my business–to promote myself as an author–and one thing for my craft each day, then I’m at least on the right path.

Today, this blog is my business promotion. I am also writing an important non-fiction pitch (again my business), and I intend to listen to lesson seven of Dan Brown’s Masterclass (score one for my art.)

That’s all I can do today between picking the kids up from school, taking them to music class, helping them with homework, cooking dinner, cleaning the kitchen, shopping for home supples (we need lightbulbs), buying groceries, gathering canned goods for a Thanksgiving food drive, and then hopefully getting my butt to the gym and following up with a glass of wine with a friend before putting my kids to sleep. But it will have to be enough.

And, if David Mamet thinks you can make it by doing at least one thing for art and business every day, then maybe it will be.

One comment

  1. Love this advice Cate, and you’re right, one thing is worth it. Wasting time kicking ourselves for not doing ‘it all’ isn’t. Now I really want to listen to this series.

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