Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Steve Martin on Writing

On Monday, the National Post had an article by/about Steve Martin in which he gives some advice about writing. Quotes are taken from an article which appears in the latest issue of Creative Screenwriting magazine. These are compared with quotes from "Writing is Easy" which appeared in The New Yorker's 1996 fiction issue. Here are a few:

On Inspiration:
As I write this, for example, I am sitting comfortably in my rose garden and typing on my new computer. Each rose represents a story, so I'm never at a loss for what to type. I just look deep into the heart of the rose, read its story, and then write it down.
2005: Sometimes you just sit down and start, as I did with L.A. Story. I like the idea of just sitting down and having vague ideas. Sometimes vague ideas create very original, surprising ideas.

On Writer's Block:
Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.
2005: Whenever I'm stuck I just do not write. I believe in a subconscious process, that on a subconscious level your mind is still working on it.

On Editing:
Sometimes the delete key is your best friend.
2005: You'll see more clearly what needs to be cut if you just lose that emotional connection to the moment of creativity.

On Borrowing:
Go to an already published novel and find a sentence that you absolutely adore. Copy it down in your manuscript. Usually, that sentence will lead you to another sentence, and pretty soon your own ideas will start to flow.
2005: Years ago I copied down a quote that came from a studio script reader who was analyzing a script. She wrote this line -- "by leaving out the occasional narrative step, the authors hook your interest and avoid the kind of point-blank exposition that so easily deadens interest." I thought that line was great.

Larry Keiler


Anonymous said...

Writing comes out of the immediate moment. Sometimes words just flow in, or a whole sentence. "That's a poem", you know. Man if you don't have pen and paper near, you got to keep on repeating it to yourself and more sentences come. If you have a poor memory like me, it's quite a feat to "reach home" with them in tact. That is if you were on a walk. Maybe you were in the bathtub and jumped out dripping. No pen in the drawer. There are guests in the house. You cannot just run out naked. Big towel will do...Phew! Essence of poem saved.

Sometimes no ideas at all. Need to write something. Position yourself behind the computer, stare at the blank page, and start writing what you feel,see and hear around you right now. from the immediate, whole philosophies can grow, in poem or proze.

After reading the post of Steve Martin. I thought, ohooow, no comments yet. How sad.

What I wanted to tell/write on impulse, and will do now is: 't snows. First winter snowstorm of the year. Just came back home.

Earlier, I bundled up, left home to meet other people with dogs. Dogs love snowstorms. Their faces full of laughter. They trump along happily.

I climbed to the top of a hill. Dogs at my heels. I rolled down the hill. Dogs all over me trying to lick my face. We romped in the soft snow and it kept on snowing.

One area of that white stuff looked like a blank page. I made a snow angel.

Me and Simon parted with the audiance of dog owners and walked home through the woods.

That's my story. I have to leave the editing. My stupid move-on bar, after I do a backspace and type in the new word or letter, erases the letters thereafter. I may end up erasing the hole paragraph and start over. Very annoying. If anyone knows How I can rid myself of that problem, I am listening.

Anonymous said...

My first thought was... Larry reads the NATIONAL POST!!!!?!

My second thought was... I really hated Steve Martin's novella, Shopgirl. I wanted sooooo badly to like it, since I love Steve Martin's humour, and most of his movies. I listened to Shopgirl on CD on one of my trips, and found the writing and story depressing. But the critics love it, and the movie version is being touted, so there ya go! Who am I?

My third thought is... hey, I agree with what SM said about writer's block, etc. 'Specially the bit about the subconscious mind. Sometimes you just have to be patient... let the story come.

Larry Keiler said...

Interesting that you should mention Shopgirl. By coincidence I happened to click on an old entry from AlterNet (one of the services I subscribe to)'s an old article which I might well have missed because I have a huge backlog of email things I don't really have time to peruse. Anyway, a long interview with Steve Martin, part of which includes discussion of Shopgirl. Check out this URL if you're interested:

Yes, Larry admits his reading is rather indiscriminate. National Post resulting from free delivery for the last several months. Ending in a few days. Damn, won't be able to fume at David Frum's idiocies anymore...

National Post ran a series recently called Beautiful Minds...their version of CBC's top ten Canadians, in which columnists and others chose the Canadians with "Beautiful Minds" who had a major influence on Canadian society. Nominees included, naturally, Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel. ! ? #&%! My god, what a piece of crap that series was! And of course, the winner, the person with the most beautiful mind in Canada was....wait for it...Don Cherry. Now, I like Don Cherry, but holymackerelandy, surely we can do better than that! Dave Keon! Bobby Orr! Tim Horton! Senator Frank Mahovlich! Alphonso Gagliano!! Svend Robinson! Larry Robinson! Jean Beliveau! Guy LaFleur! Wayne Gretzky! Walter Gretzky! Avril Lavigne! Bonhomme!

Anonymous said...

When I think of "Beautiful Minds," I think of that movie staring Russell Crowe. (Sheesh - didn't he star in that movie?).

In any case, heavens, Don Cherry, Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel as beautiful minds?

They may have had an impact on Canadian society, but not because their thinking and/or minds are beautiful! Sharp, witty, cutting, cunning, maybe...

But then, the challenge you've left me with, is coming up with my own list... that'll take a bit of thinking. Beautiful, or otherwise.