Page 11 of 11
Where do you write? Do you have a set place? Or can you write anywhere?
I write in a soundproof, window-less chamber, so all I can hear is my character’s voice guiding me. Haha, no, I write at my kitchen table or on my couch. Sometimes I write at a writer friend’s apartment, which is good because we keep each other on track. There’s sort of an unspoken reluctance to be the person who breaks the work silence with small talk. (But I usually find a way to do it.) Occasionally I’ll write at a coffee shop but A) you feel like an asshole and B) I like to get up and pace sometimes and that would appear weird and threatening in a public space.
What time of day do you like to write?
I start in the morning at like ten or eleven and go until lunch, at one. I take an hour to eat lunch and do whatever. Then I write until like four or five. In theory.
Do you set yourself a time limit? Or do you try to reach a specific word count?
I try to write for a set block of time, and I do a few of them a day. Anywhere from half an hour to two hours. I set an alarm and then don’t allow myself to go online or stop writing. I can waste insane amounts of time when left to do what I want but I haven’t ever stopped once I’ve set the alarm. On certain things, I’ll give myself a word count, which varies. For TV stuff I can write five to six pages sometimes, if I have a good outline.
Do you need quiet to write? Or do you need music? What kind of music?
I usually write with music. All kinds, I guess? It just gets me fired up to start and then after awhile I don’t really hear it. Listening to music when you write does have a downside. There have been a few times I was convinced I was writing a poignant, incredibly powerful scene only to have the sad song I was listening to end and realize, oh, shit, that was them. And this scene I wrote sucks.
What is your number one procrastination tool? Just kidding! It's the Internet, right? Of course it is. So, specifically, what on the Internet is your own personal black hole?
I waste far too much time on twitter and on various mixed martial arts and boxing sites. I also really like thedissolve.com, avclub.com and reading recaps of whatever Alan Sepinwall has recently watched over at hitfix.com. Also, having a dog definitely hurts my productivity. In general I’ve found that the addition of a wild creature, stomping about and wreaking havoc, into your living space isn’t an ideal scenario for creative reflection. For example, my dog coughed on my neck twice while I was writing that.
What do you do to break out of a bout of writer's block? Please share any and all tricks.
I don’t get writer’s block. I can always come up with something, even if it’s terrible, so I just put it down and keep moving. I outline pretty heavily so I can usually just follow that. Plenty of times the way I get there is horrifying and rereading it makes me cringe to the point where I’m actually tired from cringing, but it’s at least something to start with. Sometimes I’ll know a joke isn’t funny, or a scene isn’t working but I won’t know how to fix it. Then I force myself to write the worst, least funny thing I can come up with. I’ll intentionally pick something dumb and then write it, and then that eventually leads to an actual solution. Also, sometimes I’ll just skip the part I don’t know and move on, and come back later. I’ll leave a note to myself in the text like ADD JOKE, or SCENE THAT DOES XYZ, or KEEP BEING GREAT, CHAMP!
Who is the first person you share your writing with and why do you turn to her or him?
My friend Ariel Schrag reads just about everything I write. She’s a writer and cartoonist and we share a sensibility but also have different strengths, (my strength is “writing,” and hers is various things and whatnot…) so she’s a good person to give me feedback. She’s an amazing writer and has been invaluable when it comes to talking through story problems and helping me come up with solutions, and also pointing out when I’m being an idiot.
What is one "rule" that you follow as a writer? Writers always seem to be coming up with lists of rules. Or are you not into rules? Maybe you're not into lists? What's the deal?
My only rule is to always start by having my protagonist tell lies, to everyone, in every scene. When that’s exhausted, and all that's left to say is truth, that's what I leave on the page. Haha, NO. That’s awful! Can you imagine? I bet someone does that. And I bet this person wears tortoise shell glasses. A good rule is to just read as many books as possible. It helps to remind you what good writing looks like. Even if the writer is nothing like you, you can pick stuff up. And bad stuff is worthwhile for showing you things to avoid and for that incredible feeling of smug superiority. I try to read in between writing, at least a few times a day. And it’s awesome to be able to hangout reading a novel at like ten in the morning on your couch and be able to justify it as work.
Do you compulsively edit as you write? Or do you write a lot and go back and then cringe at how many times you repeat the same word over and over? Which, what is that word?
I do both. I can move quickly when things are going well but other times I can spend hours on a paragraph, shifting sentences and tweaking word placement, obsessing over it with whatever the writer’s equivalent of a jeweler’s loop is. Once I spent four hours on a single sentence. That sentence: “Brad, you dick, get away from my tent!” I seem to use the word “actually” more than is appropriate.
What is the best advice you've ever received about writing? And, no, it doesn't need to have come from another writer.
I remember there being a lot of valuable information in Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and as opposed to his fiction stuff, reading it won’t leave you feeling creeped out and deeply unsettled. Also, when I was a kid my dad told me to “never give up.” Trite but it comes in handy.