“I’m generally a very happy guy, because I’m doing what I want.”
With all the angst surrounding writing, it’s always refreshing to come across
writers who really love what they do. Stephen Cannell, the incredibly versatile screenwriter and novelist, surely falls into that category. After creating or co-developing 40 TV series and scripting countless episodes, he went on to write more than 15 novels, many of them bestsellers. He had “boundless imagination” and was a master craftsman according to Steven Boscho. What higher praise can one writer give another?
Stephen’s success is all the more remarkable because he was severely dyslexic — he often had to dictate ideas or even whole scripts. Though he didn’t learn this until he was in his thirties, he never let it stop him. Inspired to pursue his writing by an encouraging professor, Stephen believed that his learning disability actually helped him in his work, because it compelled him to overperform. It also freed him to avoid a big problem that many writer friends suffered from: perfectionism. They were so busy trying to write the perfect screenplay or book that they never really made any progress.
Stephen’s approach was different: his goal was to get his ideas out of his head and onto paper — and then take it from there. He enjoyed creatively stretching himself and keeping things fresh — and always looked forward to the next project he was embarking on. He was also incredibly disciplined: when he was first starting out, he’d work a day job, then come home and write for five hours five days a week and then half of Saturday and Sunday. “I believed in the concept of overperforming,” he once said. “I believe anyone can achieve their goals in life if they overperform; that means you have to work 10 times harder than anybody else you see.”
Great advice from a gifted storyteller.