Friday, July 17, 2015


“As a dramatic writer you have to pay for everything you write - in other words, you have to earn the right to write it, to make it your own, to have the confidence to let it go and know that it has a life of its own.

“Michael Schilf talks about writing what you LIVE, LEARN and LOVE. Fact is, you are already living and learning, and (it is hoped) loving something or someone, so it’s all there, right at your fingertips, right? Wrong. I can’t tell you how many wannabe writers have told me that their problem is they have nothing to write about, and when I tell them to look at their own lives they say, “but that’s me, I’m boring, no one would want to read about anything I’ve experienced”, meaning that they don’t value the life they have lived, have learned nothing from the journey they have made so far, and refuse to embrace and spread the love that has made it all vivid, challenging and bearable.  In short, they resort to the knee-jerk cop-out routine. Why? Because there’s nothing more frightening than yourself, specially the parts of your self that you’ve worked so hard to camouflage with noise, verbal and gestural.  Writing a sitcom script, weirdly enough, is about reducing or even transcending the noise, or even - sometimes - using it in a clever way to reveal an anxiety that is characteristic of the character.   You can think about it - and even talk about it - all day, all week, all month, forever, but you’ll never get anywhere if its just talking and thinking. You have to grapple with the demon. One of the things that I’ve been re-learning doing THE CREATIVE LIFE is the importance of going back and back and back - over the material - the big print, the dialogue, combing through it and crossing stuff out. Allowing my voice to gradually be overtaken by the voices of the characters. In comedy writing, that old truism, LESS IS MORE, is a kind of ultimate principle. Also, SIMPLE IS DIFFICULT.   What I am beginning to realise is how success (an episode’s funniness) depends on SIMPLICITY.  That, and TIMING. Remembering that old insight, “It ain’t got a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”   But none of this matters in the slightest - tis merely a pep talk  - unless you write it down and suffer, and write some more and suffer some more, and allow yourself much gnashing of teeth and at least 40 nights in a desert, and do it and do it and do it, until it starts to become funny. Everything - even sex - becomes FUNNY if you do it long long. Problem is, most people give up before it starts getting good.”

- Billy Marshall Stoneking


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