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How the heck do you run a successful business and find time for screenwriting?!

If you’ve been swirling around my world for a while, you probably know that I wrote a screenplay for a decadent, sexy, supernatural TV pilot.

(I just pitched my show to The Sundance Institute for a storytelling fellowship! Squeee!)

I’ve been working on this project for about a year — writing, editing, tweaking, going to meetings in LA, working with a top scriptwriting coach to refine the pilot episode and the outline for the first season, and of course, fantasizing about what I will wear to accept my first (of many!) Emmy Awards. 😉

Several people have asked me: “Melissa, how the heck do you run a business and find time to write, too?”

Here’s the honest truth: it’s not always easy to create time for everything you want to do — in life, or in business. You have to make choices, ruthlessly edit your schedule, and decide what your priorities are — and aren’t.

While I’m certainly not an emblem of “perfect balance” (um, who is?) I’ve definitely created a few systems that work for me.

If you’re wondering how I manage my “dual life” as an entrepreneur and budding screenwriter, here are my daily habits, writing routines and raw confessions — unveiled, uncensored, laid bare for your reading pleasure. 🙂

How do you find time to run your business and work on writing projects, too?

I am very intentional with my time. I don’t waste it by loitering around on social media, hanging out in my inbox all day long, or obsessively perusing Kate Spade’s Instagram feed (OK, maybe just… occasionally! 🙂

I also don’t write every single day — which, for a long time, I thought I was “supposed” to do. Sitting and writing 1,000 words a day, like many writing teachers insist upon, doesn’t work for me at all!

Instead, I schedule “writing playdates” where I go to a coffee shop, café, park, or completely out of town — like to Los Angeles or Sweden — to write for a couple hours, or a couple days, in a row. Sometimes I go alone. Sometimes I co-work with friends. Obviously, I always have Lily by my side. 🙂

Most importantly: I have designed my business to be extremely simple and easy to run.

I take on six fabulous private clients per year. I have one signature program. I have a small collection of online classes that students complete on their own — without my input. I blog once a week. And… that’s it! Uncomplicated and breezy.

(If my business structure was nightmarishly complicated, or if I was killing myself launching huge new programs every other month, there is no WAY I’d be able to pursue my screenwriting career on top of everything else. Simplicity is a must.)

How do you stay inspired?

I love listening to epic movie trailer music because it makes me want to write something dramatic and amazing — worthy of that score!

I read a lot of fiction (especially erotic fiction!) and watch great TV (I’m currently obsessed with The Fall and of course, Game Of Thrones.)

I also read celebrity gossip blogs and magazines — which provide amazing fodder for dramatic storylines about tortured characters, embroiled in unending scandal!

I also try to be attentive and observant as I go about my day. I often create characters and storylines based on things I’ve experienced or witnessed in real life. (Uber-rich dudes from Napa who inexplicably wear lavender-color pants? I’m looking at you.)

When will your show be on TV?!

As of right now, I haven’t “formally” pitched anything to a network. I’m still writing and refining my screenplay, attending informal meetings, and building relationships with decision-makers in the TV industry. (The old adage, “It’s all about who you know…” is really true.)

You might see my writing on TV in one year, 5 years, 10 years or never. You might also see my work adapted into a novel, self-published as a collection of episodic stories, or made into a webTV series. Anything could happen!

While it would be amazing to see my screenplay go into production, if that’s not in cards for me, I really don’t have any regrets.

I’m having a total blast, living out my fantasies, and pursuing my dreams at a pace that feels healthy and delicious. How could I possibly regret… any of that?

What about your acting career?

Acting is something I felt passionate about for so many years. I performed in musicals as a kid and starred in commercials and independent films all throughout my twenties and early thirties (… while simultaneously running my business.)

About a year ago, I began feeling differently. I didn’t enjoy auditioning or performing in the way that I used to. I kept getting called in for the same kinds of roles (“young wife,” “Low-fat yogurt enthusiast.”) I felt frustrated and bored, so I decided to take a break from the scene.

While on my break, I realized, “There are so few juicy, interesting, complex roles for women on TV — especially women in their 30s, 40s, and beyond. Instead of complaining about it — why not change that?”

This realization spurred me to start writing my own material. (One of the BEST parts about writing my own screenplay has been creating amazing characters that I would totally want to play!)

I may return to acting, someday — especially if I got offered a super-awesome role, like a psycho-stalker woman, a nuanced anti-heroine, or a complicated authority figure! (Ben Affleck: when you’re casting your next project, call me.)

But for now, writing is my primary focus.

If your screenwriting career takes off, what about your business?

It’s hard to predict what “might” happen, because there are so many unknowns.

What I know for sure is that I love running my business, and I love screenwriting, too.

My passions aren’t in conflict with one another. I have room in my life for both — and for the foreseeable future, I intend to keep it that way.

Right now, I’m running my OBSESSED business training program for 200 awesome entrepreneurs and continuing my weekly blog posts (like this one!)

I’m also planning a few in-person workshops this year — because we all need more face-to-face playtime, right?

Things may change, eventually. But for now, I’ve got time and energy for both facets of my work… which is exactly what I want!

What if things don’t work out? Won’t you be disappointed? Screenwriting is so hard.

One thing I’ve learned is never to have rigid expectations in life. That’s a surefire recipe for black-mascara-running-misery.

I genuinely enjoy the journey of screenwriting — creating stories, writing dialogue, conjuring up dark and sexy scenes, and penning juicy characters. The process feels like a “guilty pleasure” for me. It’s not “grueling work” — it’s like a vacation!

While it would be amazing for HBO or Showtime to pick up my pilot and pay me a trillion dollars to keep writing spine-tingling episodes for a six-season run, I won’t be crushed if that doesn’t happen.

My goal is to strike a healthy balance between “taking action” (working with a top screenwriting coach, sharing my work with TV execs, implementing their feedback, and moving to Los Angeles so that I can be more closely immersed in the industry) and “chilling out” (not pushing — just enjoying the process and allowing things to happen.)

The way I’m approaching screenwriting is the way I approach pretty much everything in my life — including running my business.

Step one: Make the “work” feel like a total guilty pleasure.

Step two: Avoid things that feel complicated or energy-sucking.

Step three: Keep creating. Stay in your pleasure-zone. Stay open and detach from rigid expectations. Have fun and see where things go!

The secret twist?

When you are genuinely having fun — loving your work, relishing each step of the process, being joyful and generous — people sit up and take notice.

Customers get excited. Audiences get obsessed. Opportunities fly into your lap. People want to be near you, learn from you, and support you. (Your overall quality of work tends to be better, too!)

By focusing on fun and pleasure, you naturally become more successful.

It’s the ultimate win-win scenario!

So, that’s how I create time for my business AND my passion projects.