Routine for Success

Routine for Success

Routine for Success

As Father’s Day approaches, I think of my father and how much he inspired me. An artist captured this picture of him many years ago, living the Hollywood dream. What people didn’t know was his key to success wasn’t just talent or luck, it was adhering to a strict routine. Here’s a link to my blog this month if you feel like some motivation:

As long as I could remember, an old illustration of my father from the ‘70’s hung on his office wall. The artist depicted him with martini in hand, floating in a cloud over his desk chair, broad smile on his face, fingers typing with ease. The quintessential picture of the successful screenwriter “living the Hollywood dream.”

The irony was a martini was the last thing my father would ever use to write a script, and every time I poked my head into his office, fierce concentration, not a smile, lit his face. Success came, not from on high, but from sitting his butt in that solid black chair. Over the years, many people asked my father the key to his success.

“Luck,” was what he always said.

But I knew different, even when I was a child. Yes, luck played into his career, but it was also determination, perseverance, and a solid routine. In this excerpt from my upcoming memoir, I remember what it felt like watching him work when I was a child:

“I tiptoed barefoot down the hall to my father’s office and peeked through the door. I knew the rule: Don’t bother Dad when he’s working!  His fingers flew across the typewriter keys.  Then, he jumped up and began to pace back and forth, speaking each character’s lines out loud. I held my breath, unsure if he knew I was there, if he could see the edge of my pink flannel robe on the carpet.” 

During Dad’s workhours, I left him alone. Mom made it clear. Our livelihood depended on his routine. Every day, come rain or shine, he knocked out pages for anywhere from one to three scripts at a time. Over the course of his life, he would write an astounding 14 feature films, 39 films and mini-series for television, and three plays. He woke early, was at his computer by 9:00 a.m. At 11:30 a.m. sharp, he went on a jog. Lunch at 12:15 p.m., followed by a shower, then a nap. Back on the typewriter by 1:30 p.m., no exceptions, except a business or doctor’s appointment. At 5:00 p.m., he was done and, unless we caught him at lunch, that’s when he was available to us. Routine powered his fingers, sharpened his talent, and paved his way to the Hollywood dream.   

Many years later, I would move through his doorway, walk down the steps into his office and sit on his director’s black, leather chair, looking at the wall that showcased his framed TV Guide covers. Together, we would write his memoir, over the course of ten years. I never doubted we would finish. Even if all we had were Saturdays, we kept to his routine. He had taught me that our success as writers depended on showing up, again and again.

When Dad passed away, “living the Hollywood dream” found a place on my office wall. For the most part, I’m exactly like my father and stick to my writing routine. But on those days I need some inspiration, I look up at Dad’s picture. Yes, he was talented, had golden opportunities that would open some doors, but he knew the key to his fortune wasn’t floating in the clouds. For 50 years, it was keeping his feet on the ground.

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