Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I WANT THIS GUY'S JOB. SORTA. BUT DEFINITELY HIS WRITING METHOD Arts & Entertainment | The man behind "Deadwood" is David Milch, who has one of those scary "I am a recovering brainiac drug addict who writes every single episode of my show" sagas that seems to pop up in TV production land every once in a West Wing while--though I have yet to hear of a girl show runner with this problem. I'm trying to imagine the producer of the "Gilmore Girls" getting this kind of behavioral leeway. ("I just couldn't write another witty line for Rory that referenced BOTH Coldplay and Toni Morrison, so I turned to the crack pipe...")

But I digress. Keep it simple, show runners!

What's fascinating to me about David Milch is the way he writes, and the way he recommends you, gentle reader, approach your writing. He doesn't even touch the keyboard when he writes dialogue. He speaks it, and it is TRANSCRIBED. He has no the hell idea where he is going when he starts, and he likes it that way. Call it channeling, free association...whatever. But it's intriguing.

Now, the cynical part of me wants to say, well, Media Kings Can Do These Things. But it backs up what I intuit, often, when I'm teaching writing, which is that the closer you get to the oral tradition that was storytelling (think Homer!), the better off you are. There's a fine line between talking your story to death and truly finding something new when you are, literally, singing it into the air. I think screenwriter Larry Gross does this, too, talking his entire script into a microcorder as he paces through his big old house. Jonathan Safran Foer seems to migrate from boro to boro, from cafe to Kinko's, which somehow makes poetic sense given that his writing is gripped with dislocation.

It's like this: your body probably knows your story better than your brain does. Sitting at a screen too long isn't good for your body--or your narrative muscles. Move something!


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