John: Yeah. And I couldn’t have written Go as my first script. Go was too complicated. I needed to be confident with the format. Although I will say I wrote the first section of Go at about the same time I wrote Here and Now. The first section of Go was X, which was a short film which became the whole movie, but it’s really just that first act of Go. And if people are thinking about trying the format, writing something short might be a really good idea, because at least it will get you familiar with the format and you’re not juggling all of the complexities of how-do-you-tell-a-story-over-two-hours. You’re just trying to tell a story over a shorter period of time.
That’s a small bit of advice. But, eventually you do have to write a full lengthy script and there are going to be all of the challenges that come with writing a full length script. And it won’t be perfect, so don’t expect it to be perfect.
Craig: No. It will likely be absolute garbage.
John: Yeah. But people don’t remember the first time they wrote a school report. People don’t remember the first time they wrote a paragraph. This is such a bigger step that it’s hard to expect that it’s going to be great the first time.
Q. Whether it’s your tweet, or Daniel Tosh joking about rape, or Tracy Morgan saying he’d kill his son if he came out to him, does it seem like the Internet is just adding more fuel to these fires?
A. Are they real fires? Or are people just reacting to something? Just because there’s an alarm going doesn’t mean it’s a fire. And I think that people are confusing the two. It’s only a fire when it offends the fans, and the fans turn on you. Tosh has fans, and they get the joke. If you’ve watched enough Tracy Morgan, you let the worst thing go by. When did Tracy Morgan become Walter Cronkite? You have to mean something to me to offend me. You can’t break up with me if we don’t date.
I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.
In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,
Your old friend,
F. Scott Fitzgerald
P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.
If you’re not in regular contact with The Brain—especially if it’s been longer than three months since last communication—come clean, and quickly admit that you’re reconnecting because you want something.
Important: What you want at this stage is not a read of your book proposal or an editor’s name at whatever publication or a research assistant or a food stylist. What you want is a brief conversation with The Brain, at the convenience of The Brain. I recently had someone tell me she’s “OK waiting” the two weeks until I was back from a trip to discuss what’s next for her in her career. Yes she is.
Here’s how to do it. You demonstrate that you know they’re doing you a big favor. You start by not making them leave their desk. Then, if it seems like The Brain is open and receptive, work your way up: “Is there a good time for you? I can send a few specific questions via email, or we can talk on the phone, whenever works for you. Or if you prefer, I can come to you, whatever’s easiest.”
One of the best concert movies ever made, by one of the best bands ever.
Jimmy Valvano’s 1993 ESPY Speech.
Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.
Make good art.
I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.
The things we fear are probably feared by others, and when we avoid them, we’re doing what others are doing as well.
Which is why there’s a scarcity of whatever work it is we’re avoiding.
And of course, scarcity often creates value.
The shortcut is simple: if you’re afraid of something, of putting yourself out there, of creating a kind of connection or a promise, that’s a clue that you’re on the right track. Go, do that.
Kurt Vonnegut on the shapes of stories