THERE’S A LOT TO TALK ABOUT when picking Sara Saedi’s brain on being a successful female writer. Saedi started her career as a young television executive working as the Director of West Coast Programming at ABC Daytime, where one of the shows she covered was General Hospital. Knowing that writing was always her true passion, Saedi made the courageous decision to leave her cushy job to pursue writing full-time. She sold her first script to ABC Family, was a staff writer on the FOX TV show, The Goodwin Games, and recently sold her YA novel, Never Ever, to Viking for a 2016 release. As if she wasn’t busy enough, in 2009 she founded the relationship blog, The Blow Off, as a side project and still runs the site. Aside from being a writer and blog maven, Saedi is stage mom to adorable pug Mabel, who just made her acting debut in this Audi commercial featuring 50 Shades of Grey. Saedi spoke with Lady Clever about following her dreams, what it’s like to be a working woman in Hollywood, and sustaining a career in the arts.
Before becoming a full-time writer you were a television executive. Can you tell us what inspired you to take that leap of faith to make the change and how long had you been thinking about it before you pulled the trigger?
Working as an executive always felt like a day job. I always knew I ultimately wanted to be a writer. I waited until I had agents and enough money saved in the bank before leaving what was a very stable job to pursue writing. The timing ended up being perfect, because I sold a project to ABC Family before I made the leap. The executive who first read my script at Family was someone I knew through my day job — so you never know when a career you’re not crazy about will lead to what you really want to do.
In Hollywood, have you ever felt that you would get fewer notes or less resistance and pushback on a project if you would have been a man working on the same project?
I’ve only felt that way about getting hired on a show. Especially in comedy. You often hear “they need a girl at your level” before going into a meeting. I’ve sometimes gotten the feedback that I seemed too timid for a comedy room. And yet professionally, I’ve often been referred to as fearless. It’s hard not to wonder if being female and five feet tall has anything to do with that. One day, when I’m a huge success, I will write a memoir entitled “Too Short to Fail.”
How do you deal with professional setbacks — especially since most of them are out of your control?
I used to give myself one day to mope and lick my wounds and then get back to writing. Now, I give myself about an hour. The best way to deal with setbacks is to keep working and to listen to On to the Next One by Jay-Z over and over again.
What inspired you to start The Blow Off?
One of my best friends was unceremoniously dumped by a guy via text message. While consoling her, I thought it would be great if there was a public forum where people could share their break-up stories and laugh through the pain. That same friend wrote a few articles for the blog and ended up meeting her fiancé when he tweeted her about a post he’d read. So, I’m basically responsible for all the happiness in her life.
What’s your favorite part of running The Blow Off?
Getting emails from readers who say the site has helped them get through a break-up. I also love getting stories from women and men all around the world. I once got an email from a thirteen-year-old for relationship advice! After a while, none of your friends and family want to hear about your break-up anymore, but I always want to hear about it.
Does a Blow Off story ever inspire ideas for your own writing?
Yes. I wrote a post entitled “An Open Letter to Juliet” that got me thinking — what would have happened if Romeo died, but Juliet survived her suicide attempt? So I wrote a pilot script with that question at the center of it.
Speaking about your own writing, congratulations on the book deal for your first YA novel, Never Ever. Can you give us a little insight into your inspiration for the book?
Thank you! It initially started as a television idea. I was on my honeymoon in Tahiti three years ago and was very inspired by the setting. And I’ve always loved the story of Peter Pan. So, I thought it would be cool to explore the idea of a bunch of teenagers living on an island together where no one ever grows up. At the time, my reps weren’t totally sold on the project for TV, but it was an idea I couldn’t get out of my head. On the advice of a producer I worked with on another project, I decided to write it as a book instead.
What has surprised you most about writing a novel as opposed to screenwriting?
It takes MUCH longer to write a novel. It’s more of an endurance challenge than writing a script. I love that a novel relies less on dialogue and more on descriptions. I love that there’s room to really get to know your characters. I had to learn that less was sometimes more when it came to plot and that you don’t need as many twists and turns as a television series. That’s something I’m still working on.
Is there anything or anyone that you consider off-limits as a topic for any of your writing endeavors?
For the blog, I don’t write about anyone’s break-ups or dating stories without their permission. And I try to resist the urge to ask someone if they want to write a post right after they’ve been dumped.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your original writing projects?
There is no one place, but mostly from conversations with friends and loved ones. And life experience.
Have you found other female writers to be supportive, or is there a weird competitiveness?
Mostly, I’ve found women writers to be incredibly supportive. And I’ve found a lot of male writers to be incredibly supportive too. I’ve encountered moments of weird competitiveness too, but that’s not the status quo. I will say some of my favorite bosses/colleagues have been moms. Nothing phases them.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
#1. You will hear no in this business more than yes.
#2. Write yourself out of it.
And lastly — what advice do you have for someone who wants to leave their “practical” career to pursue their dream?
Timing is everything. Don’t do it too soon, but don’t wait too long either. Looking back, I’m really glad I waited as long as I did and built my writing portfolio while saving money. It meant a lot of evenings and weekends spent writing, but it was worth it. But if I’m going to be totally honest, sometimes I wish I’d been able to jump ship sooner. I’m a few years older than most people at the staff writer level. I think it might be payback for all the years I was the youngest executive in the room.