Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"It's No Them, It's Me"

When I was writing for television, particularly when I was writing episodes rather than running a show, I would never force myself to write when I wasn’t feeling well. 

Writers are like delicate machines – Maseratis of the Keyboard, we like to believe – and there is the fear that any imbalance or imperfection in the system will reflect itself in the outcome, feeling blah leading to “blah” writing. 

(When you’re running a show, or on facing an un-movable deadline, such indulgences are not possible, and you do the best you can, sometimes discovering that being sick made you concentrate harder and you actually did better work.  Isn’t that interesting?  I’ve seen the same thing happen with athletes who play out of their minds under the burden of a really bad flu.  I love comparing writers with athletes, although this time, I am not entirely full of baloney. )

I am currently a number of blog posts ahead, which I like to be, not for the “breathing room”, but because when I go away, I have residual blog post material to regale you with while I am otherwise engaged.  Still, aside from not wanting to eat up the “ahead” material, as an habitual practice, I require myself to write something for this venue five days a week, sick or not, unless it’s heart surgery and the recovery therefrom, a circumstance under which all bets are – hopefully temporarily – off.

The result is – and you can take this to the bank – a daily as-truthful-as-I-can-deliver-it version of the story I am trying to tell – or retrieve from the enveloping mists of time.  I also require myself to be on my best possible behavior, maintaining a “Company’s coming” mentality, insuring what I am exposing to public view at least minimally “presentable.”

You may have noticed that I have ceased and desisted from writing about politics.  The reason for that is is that I am too depressed by the current situation, and have no desire to disseminate the gloom.  In addition, despite my unceasing need for blog-writing material, there are still areas of opinion and experience I have circumvented because they make me look worse than the “worse” I actually allow you to see.  If you can believe that.  And, assuming you harbor certain darker views and secrets of your own, you can.

In terms of content… it’s funny.  When I think about what I do – and have always done – for my work, I say to others – and to myself –

“I make stuff up.”

The thing is, 

I don’t.

The thing more truthfully is,

I can’t.

I tell my stories as best as I can remember them.  I may – though never deliberately – get my facts wrong, I may exaggerate slightly for effect, I may inflate the seriousness of circumstances for (hopefully) comedic effect.  But I have never told a story I portray as “This happened”, when it actually, in fact, did not.

I am simply not that kind of writer.

I once said – possibly to someone else, though it may have just been to myself – that I do not believe in “make believe.”  I probably do, when others write it.  But I do not believe I can pull “make believe” off myself.


I cannot produce a piece of writing which, even though readers know it’s fiction from the get-go, they are still caught up in its elements as if what I was writing about were actually transpiring events.  I am in awe of those who can pull that feat of literary hypnotism off.  Which is not the same as saying I read them.  I generally don’t, preferring instead, to read history, which is based on researched facts, albeit subjectively selected and assembled ones.

I recently read about a journalist-turned-fiction-writer who found it difficult to abandon their “Just the facts” newspaper training and engage in flights of fictional, literary fancy.  But little by little, they reported, they unshackled themselves from such content limitations and by their third novel, they had a bear rampaging through the streets of downtown Chicago. 

There is no previous training that conditions me against venturing beyond the boundaries of factual constriction and making the imagined seem credible.  (And let me make it clear that I do not claim any moral superiority over writers who do.)  For me, it is simply a matter of temperament. 

I cannot make stuff up.


Because I’m afraid I’ll get caught.  (And subsequently punished.)

Getting caught (and subsequently punished) for doing what?  Making stuff up?  That’s what writers are supposed to do.  And by the way, you made up everything you wrote for television.

Except for (a seven-episode and then cancelled series I created called) Family Man, all of whose stories actually happened to me in real life.

That was seven scripts.  You wrote or co-wrote ninety or so other scripts that were all made up, weren’t they?  So what the heck are you talking about?

I don’t know.  Maybe blog writing is different.  All I know is that’s exactly the way I feel.  I cannot make anything up.

You clazy, Man!

Perhaps so, Italics Man.

Perhaps so.

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