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Essays on writing by various tv and movie writers
March 16, 2008 2:23 PM   Subscribe

An essay by Bill Lawrence, creator of "Scrubs," on why he writes. It's part of a series: "Why We Write."

Other highlights include: Damon Lindelof ("Lost"), Mark Gaberman ("Jeopardy!"), Jane Espenson ("Buffy" "Battlestar Gallactica"), Jack Kenny ("Titus" "Book of Daniel"), Howard Gordon ("24"), Hart Hanson ("Bones"), and Gary Lennon ("The Shield").
posted by Tehanu (28 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
Of course it is hard to top this essay, by one of literature's true masters
posted by MrMerlot at 2:29 PM on March 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


This makes me weepy, every time I read it, which is quite often.
posted by timsteil at 2:42 PM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I did one of these at my own site, and I must say, it's opinionated enough to fit in on that site.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 2:49 PM on March 16, 2008


As MrMerlot said: George Orwell ftw!
posted by WalterMitty at 2:58 PM on March 16, 2008


That essay by Lindelof is incredible.
posted by Bizurke at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2008


I write because when I find something shiny, I like to show it off and share it with other people.
posted by localroger at 3:44 PM on March 16, 2008


Holy fuck, the Lindelof one is really amazing.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:54 PM on March 16, 2008


I eagerly await "Why I Compose" by Tila Tequila.
posted by 1 at 4:03 PM on March 16, 2008


"The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself" -- Albert Camus
posted by stbalbach at 4:04 PM on March 16, 2008


On a slight tangent, see this great AskMe answer by waxbanks.

Also, interesting how strong the "paid lying" theme is.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:07 PM on March 16, 2008


Why shouldn't creators of TV shows write to each other? Oh, right.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:49 PM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


That essay by Lindelof is incredible kind of clever.
posted by 1 at 5:18 PM on March 16, 2008


Also, interesting how strong the "paid lying" theme is.

Part of that is due to me selecting my favorites out of the entire blog archive. I tend to find those hilarious. They're the few comedic entries and usually pretty well done, with a twist of some kind. But other themes emerge if you comb through what I didn't link to. Two others I noticed: "because I'm not good at anything else" (usually with a gym/sports/getting picked on childhood story and varying degrees of seriousness) and "because I have been obsessed with tv since a young age." I don't find most of those as entertaining or compelling, personally. Among the more serious ones, some others I liked but didn't link to are Skye Dent's, Courtney Bulger's and David Dean Bottrell's.
posted by Tehanu at 5:49 PM on March 16, 2008


The Jim Harrison essay timsteil linked to is by far the best. Amazing.
posted by nasreddin at 6:00 PM on March 16, 2008


I did one of these at my own site, and I must say, it's opinionated enough to fit in on that site.
You should probably take your resentment (and ressentiment) against the people who are "fucking it up for you" and apply it to your writing. This just looks mean-spirited and ungenerous.

And also, remember this:
"Deprived of the company of fools, a great wit does not seem half so clever."
- La Rochefoucauld
posted by nasreddin at 6:05 PM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I write because I am very skilled at amusing myself, and, by writing it down, I can then go back and reread, and amuse myself again.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:22 PM on March 16, 2008


I write because the Internet needs a hero.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:46 PM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nasreddin: It is mean spirited. That was the point. Tough love. Got to get these long winded gas-bags to shut the fuck up with their over-thought and elaborate metaphors designed to "WOW."

Actually, I really don't have a problem with elaborate metaphors when they occur at the image level. It's when people try to cram too many meaningless "power" words in at the sentence level to impress the reader that I get a little miffed. Not because they're taking anything from me personally, but there's the notion that "real" writing is that difficult and complex and that simple direct writing is somehow, i don't know, "less"

It isn't.

Real writing is what the guys at the site are doing. Exciting the reader and entertaining them through emotional impact, not intellectual posturing.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 7:37 PM on March 16, 2008


And pastabagel is right, the internet does need a hero.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 7:39 PM on March 16, 2008


1, re-reading it, I think you're pretty much right. But it still takes writing skill to get that kind of hyperbolic first impression, right?
posted by Bizurke at 8:13 PM on March 16, 2008


So, the first episode of Radiolab's new season is on deception and (spoiler) there's an area where they discuss that pathological liars seem to have more (25% more) white matter than those that tell the truth. They imply that white matter is the "highway" that connects the processing station-esque gray matter and that when the brain rushes out to make up a new reason for something, it is able to come back with valid stories so much quicker than truthy people.

That Lindelof essay makes me wonder if they should scan writers for white matter amounts too. It would be interesting.
posted by Brainy at 9:07 PM on March 16, 2008


pastabagel: I write because the Internet Bonnie Tyler needs a hero.

Fixed that for you.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:15 AM on March 17, 2008


I find intellectual posturing a lot easier to swallow than lame tennis analogies and judgmental puffery. Some of the most talented writers I’ve known have had the ability to be both encouraging and honest in their critiques without resorting to exclusionism. Craft can be improved with practice and education. Unfortunately, egos cannot. If you think your essay is so great, then by all means, submit it to the site and see what gets fobbed back you, love.

Great post, Tehanu, I’m looking forward to reading more essays.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:08 AM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wait, on that Lindelof bit - didn't this actually happen? I remember listening to IamanassholeNPR and
GoggleGoogleGoogle ah!
Here it is.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:23 AM on March 17, 2008


That Lindelof essay makes me wonder if they should scan writers for white matter amounts too. It would be interesting.

Peter Beagle has a character in a novel and a short story who is trained as an oral storyteller. At one point she says something to the effect of "All stories are lies because they are stories. But some of them are very true anyway." I don't think it's the same thing as being a pathological liar, but I do think, like actors, good fiction writers need to be able to tell a good lie and do it so well that it takes on its own truth.

There's a scene where she tells someone a story to distract him from killing her that I've always enjoyed. It's in The Innkeeper's Song.
posted by Tehanu at 11:40 AM on March 17, 2008


I'll stick with the Orwell, thank you.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:12 PM on March 17, 2008


Rather than continue on with another internet pissing contest, why don't we talk about what we think good writing is?
posted by tylerfulltilt at 2:35 PM on March 17, 2008


Also, I can't believe no one has said how good jane espenson's essay was.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 2:52 PM on March 17, 2008


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