July 27, 2011

verse chorus refrain

7/27/11

As a few of you might know, ever since my successful 24-hour writing binge described here on these pages, I've made it a yearly habit to sequester myself away for two nights at a local hotel to write an entire script. That particular bender in 2006 became - with Tessa's crucial guidance - the script that has been our calling card for years, with other fruitful marathons in 2008 and 2010. And here I am, once again, staring at the mini-bar and wondering if $75 really is too much for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

This current project pretty much breaks all the rules you're supposed to follow when writing a television "spec", but something in me clicked about a year ago, and I'm well past caring. It's slightly supernatural, it's dark, it has swear words, it's set in New York, and it's in two parts (meaning a 2-hour pilot). None of which I would recommend to beginners, but hopefully we've built up enough street cred and good will to keep us from being laughed out of the room.

Either way, if you're involved in something artistic, you don't choose the project, the project chooses you. I recognize how faux and dinky-dinky-doo precious that sounds, but if you start telling your ideas you don't like them, they'll stop showing up. All things being equal, the writer (or writing team) that pitches something they actually love will shine two shades brighter, and it's usually contagious.

What a bizarre job we have. Any amount of close observation, and it disintegrates like ash. Best to not think too much on't, and keep writing stories you can't put down or turn off. Save the navel-gazing for our autumn years, when we look back upon it and pick apart the miracle of pulling it off.

Posted by Ian Williams at July 27, 2011 11:52 PM
Comments
Posted by: CM at July 28, 2011 3:00 AM

Good luck with it!! Go nuts!

It's GOOD that it breaks the rules...most of the really successful shows these days do that.

Posted by: Julie at July 28, 2011 4:39 AM

Good luck!!

Posted by: AJay at July 28, 2011 9:49 AM

I recall the author of Eat, Pray, Love discussing on RadioLab how inspiration was external. It's something you need to address as an external force. She said she learned a lot about that from Tom Waits. So I'm beginning to think you're right when you say "you don't choose the project, the project chooses you". If you haven't heard it already, the RadioLab podcast can be found at http://www.radiolab.org/2011/mar/08/

Posted by: Lee at July 28, 2011 10:26 AM

Get the Doritos and go go go!

Posted by: John at July 28, 2011 11:32 AM

Excellent advice, and I wish you and Tessa the best with it.

By the way, I took your advice a few years ago and holed up in the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA to do a massive rewrite on a feature script. After a couple of hours, I hit a sticking point, and made the mistake of turning on the TV - 'just for a second'. Let's just say it turned out to be a very expensive, very lonely, very unproductive weekend. (And that script STILL needs a rewrite.)

Posted by: Laura at July 28, 2011 12:07 PM

I feel not only does the project choose me, but it's almost as if it infects me and I HAVE to get it out of my head before it consumes me. And yes, I am that precious.

Here's to fruitful writing and pleantiful Doritos.

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