Jerry Seinfeld wrote and starred in the most famous and profitable sitcom of all time, Seinfeld.
How did he do it?
Was Seinfeld the best actor of our generation? Nope. Watch the show and you’d agree. Seinfeld agrees.
How about a case of right time and right place? Maybe. But Seinfeld barely stayed on the air for the first three seasons. It limped along and found an audience in season four.
Maybe it was the all-star cast? Jason Alexander, Michael Richards, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, had some previous success. But they weren’t household names in the business.
So what did Jerry Seinfeld do to make his show a 3.1 billion dollar phenomenon?
Closed the door.
In an interview on Alec Baldwin’s podcast, Seinfeld explained what set their show apart. Previously, in the interview, Baldwin asked Seinfeld why he didn’t leverage their success to make more shows. His answer (paraphrased):
“Let me tell you why my tv series in the 90s was so good, besides just an inordinate amount of just pure good fortune. In most tv series, 50 percent of the time is spent working on the show, 50 percent of the time is spent dealing with personality, political, and hierarchical issues of making something. We spent 99.9 percent of our time writing. Me and Larry [David]. The two of us. The door was closed. It’s closed. Somebody calls. We’re not taking the call. We were gonna make this thing funny. That’s why the show was good.”
Seinfeld never wanted to do shows again, because making TV is less art and creation, and all the other politics and network stuff. It’s administration, promotion, and dealing with personalities. Jerry wanted to write and spend the bulk of his energy in the creation process. He wanted to make art.
Seinfeld closed the door.
So many writers and creatives get hung up on the non-art stuff. They want success, want to share their art with the world, but never close the door, and make the stuff.
Weekly, I’m emailed asking how to find more time to write.
My answer: close the door. When will you close the door and make whatever you’re supposed to make?
Stop fiddling with your website and checking your Facebook page. Close the door and write.
Stop reading your reviews and crying in the corner.
Close the door.
Stop worrying about whether people will think your ideas are good, or book will change the world. Close the door and write the dang thing.
Jerry Seinfeld is a comic success and genius. But what sets him apart, and what I can tell from interviews, and hearing from others comics. He has a work ethic like no other. Seinfeld is always creating new material and working on his craft. I once heard he writes new jokes every single day.
Imagine the artist that stopped cuddling with their latest project and made something new. Imagine the pastor who closed the door and gave more focused time and attention to his latest sermon. Not allowing everyone and everything to impede on his time.
The mother who wants to start a blog amid a house of children. What if she closed the door in the evenings and wrote, and wrote, and wrote? What could happen?
Most writers and creatives are looking for some magic pill, marketing formula, or right connections, to get their work in the world.
What we all need more than anything are closed doors.
Butt in chairs and closed doors. Anything that doesn’t help move the creative ball forward is wasted energy.
There will always be a time and place and need for putting on the business and promotion hat.
But the one thing you can do, and must do, and have to do, is close the door, and write.
No one can do it for you.
Who knows, maybe you’ll write the next Seinfeld?