I’m a little late with my Journal contribution this month because I – along with Shun Lee Fong and Anthony Epling – have been focused on the formation of the Catalyst Writers Groups (and moving to Atlanta to begin production on my series). But I’m so excited about what’s happening here, I’m not as embarrassed as I’d normally be about blowing a deadline. (And yes, I’m excited about my series, too.)
The Catalyst Writers Groups are a new effort here at Greenhouse. The seed was planted by writers seeking accountability and feedback. It took us a bit to align all the pieces, but the invitation was made in January. We were hoping a handful of writers might be interested in participating: We have over four dozen in this first session, broken into nine groups, all mentored by working professionals.
Of course, it’s wonderful to see the program embraced by so many. But what’s most exciting about this effort is seeing so many writers eager to build community. Yes, writers groups are about honing your craft and keeping each other on track. But they’re also about investing in each other, as writers and as people. They’re about developing critical skills along with your writing chops. They’re about learning to listen to what another writer is trying to say, and helping them say it in their own voice rather than pushing them to say it the way you would have – and about listening with openness and discernment when it’s your turn to get notes.
Working in community is crucial in entertainment. Television is a group project by definition, but filmmaking isn’t a solitary sport either. Even though there will be plenty of late nights or early mornings when it is just you, your keyboard, and a looming deadline (one that you can’t afford to blow), most of what we do in Hollywood is communal. Collaborative. At its best, an exhilarating exchange of creative ideas that elevates the material. At its toughest, a grueling process to synthesize a variety of viewpoints, yet still elevate the material.
What delights me most is that writers are participating in these Greenhouse groups not just to improve their own work, but to offer support and guidance to others. To connect with kindred spirits. To create momentum for the group. I believe a joyful environment, where artists know they are respected and supported, gives rise to the best product. And terrific relationships.
The Greenhouse is dedicated to the growth of artists. And the best way to grow is to lift each other up – to share the benefits of our own experience and education, to offer one another creative and emotional support, to rejoice in each other’s triumphs and provide comfort in each other’s trials. The danger in pursuing a difficult path, like becoming a professional writer, is that the goal can overtake the journey. But an artist needs to experience the journey fully to create better art. So, as Henri Frederic Amiel suggests, “Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”
Sheryl J. Anderson is a television writer/producer and has written half-hour, hour, and movies (such as Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Charmed, and The Town that Came A'Courtin'). She has sold pilots to SyFy, Lifetime, and NBC, and created and served as showrunner of UPtv's first original scripted series, Ties that Bind. Most recently, she has been the showrunner for Netflix's upcoming Sweet Magnolias. She has recently written movies for UPtv and Hallmark. She is an adjunct faculty member in the Screenwriting MFA at Pepperdine University and lectures regularly at Azusa Pacifica University. Sheryl is also the author of the Molly Forrester Mysteries, a series now available from Ignition Books.