Tuesday, January 22, 2008

how you write, what you do

I watched the movie Once the other week, and then watched it again with the commentary track with the director and stars of the film. One of the things they talked about is how interesting it is to watch artists -- in this case musicians -- make what they make. The process it takes to get from A to Z. How it becomes something that is, more or less, finished; or how it -- the recognizable song/painting/whatever -- became the thing it became. It really is fascinating. Like I could watch Bob Ross paint his happy little trees for hours. What's so interesting isn't the final picture (forest landscape on a snowy day. yawn), but how he used that scraper tool and a little white paint to make those happy trees heavy with happy snow, and how that scraper tool makes that scraping sound on the canvas. I'd watch Bob Ross paint for hours. It's magic.

For writers and writing, I'm not so interested in learning about the nebulous, intangible stuff of inspiration and creativity. Borrrrrring. I prefer the quantifiable details: Where do you write? When? Pencil or pen? In a spiral notebook or on office legal pads? When you write on the computer, what font do you use? How do you format your stage directions? Where do you go for character names? When you write at Starbucks, what do you drink? Do you snack? How good is your writing after a couple glasses of crummy [yellowtail]? Music? No? If music, what kind, how loud? Do you wear pants? Can you write on a bus? On a train? In bed?

When I started writing, I tried to crib routines from writers I liked. Like T.C. Boyle said in an interview he writes in a dark room and blasts jazz music, so I tried to do that, but it didn't make me a prolific short-story writing genius. A lot of writers get up at 5am to write. That seemed like a good idea until it seemed insane, and it seemed insane almost instantly. I had a pretty great routine when I was unemployed, but it involved never seeing the sun, ever.

I've done a lot of writing in coffee shops. I prefer the holy cathedral of St. Arbucks over, say, a mom & pop java dive. At the corporate joint, I don't feel guilty ordering JUST a cup of coffee and squatting at a table for a 5 hour writing jag. I'm one of THOSE people. I hate those people. I am those people. Eek. My favorite Starbucks on the planet is in a strip mall in Webster Groves, Missouri. My favorite Starbucks in Chicago is either the 'Bucks at Diversey & Sheffield, or the Ghettobucks at Bryn Mawr and Winthrop where I saw a homeless guy pee on the wall.

More: I use 11 point Times New Roman and a macro keyed by Ctrl+J for stage directions and I don't like to eat while writing because eating is for watching television, not writing, and 39% of everything I've ever written has been written in bed. No pants. Well sometimes pants. Are pajama bottoms "pants"? When I get stuck on an ending, I end the play with a meteor crashing through the ceiling and killing all the characters instantly. The end.

I go back and fix it when I'm not so frustrated.

I'm saving that meteor-kills-everybody ending for my master-work. Wait for it.

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(Meteor crashes through ceiling and kills this blog post instantly. The end)