Even “Mad Men” Creator Matthew Weiner was a Struggling Writer Once

by Elizabeth Vogt

After a 7 season run, it’s #TheEndOfAnEra for the show that stood as a beacon for the Golden Age of Television. While “Mad Men” is widely considered to be one of the greatest TV shows ever created, it may never have even seen the light of day if not for the incredible persistence of its creator, Matthew Weiner. In an excerpt published at Fast Company from Gillian Zoe’s Getting There: A Book of Mentors, Weiner reveals the life-long adversity he faced as an aspiring writer while simultaneously providing exceptional advice for any struggling writer who has ever felt the hopelessness of rejection and lack of inspiration.

Weiner says he never hides his mistakes, or else he would never appreciate the finished product:

If you don’t get to see the notes, the rewrites, and the steps, it’s easy to look at a finished product and be under the illusion that it just came pouring out of someone’s head like that. People who are young, or still struggling, can get easily discouraged, because they can’t do it like they thought it was done. An artwork is a finished product, and it should be, but I always swore to myself that I would not hide my brushstrokes.

He also believes strongly in commitment and perseverance:

The most defeatist thing I hear is, “I’m going to give it a couple of years.” You can’t set a clock for yourself. If you do, you are not a writer. You should want it so badly that you don’t have a choice. You have to commit for the long haul. There’s no shame in being a starving artist. Get a day job, but don’t get too good at it. It will take you away from your writing.

But above all else, Weiner just wants struggling writers to write, and write often:

The greatest regret I have is that, early in my career, I showed myself such cruelty for not having accomplished anything significant. I spent so much time trying to write, but was paralyzed by how behind I felt. Many years later I realized that if I had written only a couple of pages a day, I would’ve written 500 pages at the end of a year (and that’s not even working weekends). Any contribution you make on a daily basis is fantastic. I still happen to write almost everything at once, but I now cut myself slack on all of the thinking and procrastination time I use. I know that it’s all part of my creative process.

For more on how Weiner finally got Mad Men off the ground and never let the haters get him down, read the full excerpt over at Fast Company.

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