Tag Archives: Writing Process

Neil Gaiman on Writing

Considering I shared some interviews of Rod Serling on writing earlier, what are the odds that I’d share an interview with Neil Gaiman after last week’s post?

Pretty darn good.

So here’s a good 100-minute interview with Tim Ferris from 2019 where Neil Gaiman goes into all sorts of things from his formative years to fountain pens to his writing process (and I have to say, I do like the change in format enforcing the editing phase).

A Lot More Q&A with Rod Serling

After watching the Rod Serling video compilation back in July, I’ve gone down a modest Rod Serling rabbit hole looking for other videos and talks and interviews he’s given.

As you might imagine, YouTube does provide.

This nearly hour-long entry is essentially a long question-answer session from UCLA circa 1971. As with many of the other videos I’ve come across, many of his answers and references are very topical to 1971, so be warned that you may need to fire your history synapses for some of the shows and events cited.

Nevertheless, I found many of the answers –even though they were very much of the time regarding the recent departure of Star Trek from the airwaves to Serling’s displeasure at his current gig Night Gallery– to be interesting enough to share.

via UCLA

Now, while this is a video, it’s simply a recording of the session at UCLA… and because there wasn’t any presumption of broadcast, you’ll hear some salty language from both Serling and some of the student. Also, and this is something I’ve found in some of the other videos I’ve watched, Serling can be irascible and prickly with some of the questions… which is interesting, because he seems remarkably self-aware that he is being irascible. Perhaps the most poignant aspects of this self-awareness is when they discuss his addiction to smoking, which he knew was not good for his health.

Rod Serling on Writing

I was recently writing a short story that I purposely wanted to have a “Twilight Zone” feel for both the structure my overall understanding of how the story would unfold. I mean, I linked to it above, but the phrase “Twilight Zone” and its implications has permeated culture so thoroughly that, even without an impressive three follow-up series, I think it would still occupy a place in people’s minds.

So, after finishing the story, I came across this video in my “stuff to check out” folder and enjoyed it immensely. It appears to be a mash-up of at least two sessions Rod Serling had with students in the 60s or 70s (so if anyone finds the uncut versions posted, let me know). In it they discuss creativity, the writing process, Serling’s very definite views on the subjects, and –as comes as no surprise– more than a little autobiographical info on what made Serling tick.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in a bit more of how the whole manner of putting an anthology show together from the producing side, (you know, if one were to work on anthology shows themselves…) Buck Houghton wrote a book all about it which I still find myself referencing and recommending.

Hard Work or Hardly Working: Writers’ Edition

A couple posts I read this past weekend inspired me to update my “Writing” section, but before I get to that, here are the posts in questions.

Ken Levine on the difference between amateur writers and pros.

Ken Levine is, as one might expect of a veteran writer of shows like M*A*S*H and Cheers, pithy and to the point. I’ve heard both the anecdotes before, though I don’t think I knew the sources.

Mark Evanier on the hard work of writing… and the previous post.

In reading these, I wanted to reference my “writing” section intro and in re-reading it for the first time in, well, years, I realized I didn’t make it abundantly clear: I love writing.

I like actually writing. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying motivating myself isn’t hard on occasion, but when I get into a flow, in that Csikszentmihalyi way, I absolutely LOVE it. Maybe when I’m in that flow, loving writing, the end result isn’t my best writing. I’ve heard that when you go back to a piece of writing, you can’t tell the passages from your “good” days from your “bad” days and my personal experience rings true — but the reason I write is because of those good days. I love writing.

Now for the idea that many writers hate writing, but love having written. I get it. I also get a tremendous amount of satisfaction –even pride– at having completed a work. I’ve written about the importance of finishing your writing. But, of course, one of the reasons I don’t “love having written” the way other people seem to express it is because that finished script, that finished story is just sitting there, waiting to be revised. It could be better. It could always be better. I know this in my bones.

So, I suppose I’m okay when it comes to which type of writer I am. As long as I keep putting in the work.

Video

Screenwriting through the David Lynch Lens

Last week, I posted a few videos about David Lynch and how to hook yourself an idea or two.

Well, as you might expect, I plowed through a number of Lynch videos at the same time, in part because the two I shared last week are just about the nature of getting ideas.

But, in fact, the first video I watched was a piece asking Lynch about his screenwriting process… and since it’s just over two minutes, it’s actually easy to re-watch as you realize at the end how many little nuggets of experience he puts in there.

All the ideas of process could easily be fleshed out into whole seminars (and I imagine the gentleman who introduced Lynch to the “note card” idea does just that in his classes), but it’s good to think of.

Incidentally, I am more of a “plotter” than a “pantser” — and back when I was more analog than digital, I absolutely did the note card method and still do it as I outline albeit via Workflowy. However I think in terms of altitude. Some “note cards” remain at the 50,000 foot view and that’s all I need. Some need more detail. Some get so much detail, I have to break them into separate cards so that the flow gets articulated well.

But that’s likely a discussion for another time. Back to Lynch. I’ve now shared several short videos, so here’s a compilation of a bunch of interviews which gives you 10 screenwriting tips… though since it’s Lynch, it’s really more ideas and approaches to screenwriting versus bland specifications.

I like all the ideas presented. For one, I think he nails why film is such a powerful medium, since it can deal with abstraction so powerfully. I also like his notion of what writer’s block represents and how he rejects suffering as a necessary component of being an artist. There’s also some great stuff about how to tap into your own creativity. Hope you all have a creative week.

A Writer’s Journey from Idea to Novel

It’s always interesting to figure out how various writers work and this long article by George Saunders, which explains the genesis and creation (and recreation) of one of his novels, is a great window into a process that had me going “aha,” and nodding in equal measure.

Illustration by Yann Kebbi

Fewer Lightning Strikes and More Slow Burns

Besides the inevitable barbecues in the U.S. this long weekend, it’s a good one for reflection (not the least given the reason for the long weekend).

So that got me thinking about ideas and inspiration and a recent article by David Robinson for the BBC about how people get ideas… and how a certain professor is testing some assumptions of how people get and choose ideas.

But, maybe don’t try and connect all the ideas to one another? That could get bad.

The article goes a lot into brainstorming and business settings, but there’s plenty to mull over for creative work — and working together creatively.

Reckless, Truthful, & Clean as a Bone: James Baldwin on Writing

I’ve been meaning to get back into the groove of posting motivational material on Mondays — as well as tackle some larger writing projects as well, so this list from Emily Temple over at Literary Hub of James Baldwin’s observations on writing is most welcome.

James Baldwin (Photo: Allan Warren)

If you’ve read some of his work or seen some of his interviews, the directness and clarity of his observations and suggestions will come as no surprise, but it could just be that one or three of the sentiments is just what you need to hear right now.

Lessons Learned: Trilogy-writing Edition

Book one in the trilogy (image via JohnAugust.com)

In traditional project management, the last phase is closing. It means the project is accepted as ‘completed’ on some level of formality. Not only that, what with project managers loving to document things, they like to document ‘”lessons learned.” In other words, what will you do better next time? What might you try to avoid doing altogether? What definitely worked? While users of agile and lean frameworks may think of continuous improvement, a good concept to bear in mind, sometimes you only have the chance to really step back and evaluate what the heck happened at a bigger milestone.

“Post-mortems” in theater and film projects are where I first encountered “lessons learned,” so when I later crossed over into the office environment, they were not unfamiliar and something I’ve encouraged for both their pragmatic and cathartic benefits. This has also meant that I’ve always known it’s good and necessary to do lessons learned for creative projects.

So I was thrilled to see screenwriter and all-around storyteller John August detail some of his lessons learned after completing his foray into middle-grade fiction. (That’s the Arlo Finch series pictured above).

Long-time readers may recall I listen to the screenwriting podcast he and fellow scribe Craig Mazin do, called Scriptnotes. Long-time listeners of that podcast will already know August approaches most things with a thoroughly methodical, yet joyful frame of mind. You’ll see that on display in this list of 10 lessons learned. I’m not writing a trilogy per se, but a lot of the lessons here apply to my writing. Hope they work for you all as well.

Aaron Sorkin Gives Screenwriting Support

Purveyor of hyperreal –and immensely satisfying– dialogue, playwright/screenwriter Aaron Sorkin jumped online last week to give a few really choice answers to some Twitter questions. Enjoy.