Screenwriters, Write Badly With Pride by CSUN Professor Eric Edson

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage:  Eric, something you just said to us off-camera was that when you do see students again out in the public arena, they’ll say “You know, I always remember that you encouraged me to write badly with pride” and how this worked for them.  Can we talk about that?

Eric Edson:  Yeah. Sure.  Every time I walk into the class, the first evening (all of our classes are evening classes) and in the new class the first year people are there for the first semester.  I walk in and they’re chattering away and trying to get to know each other and so forth but they haven’t really had anything to do with me yet.  And I walk in.  It was always weird and creepy because as soon as I walk in, a deathly silence falls!  And everybody is waiting.  So I look very austere and serious and I walk to the white board and I write on the whiteboard in very, very large letters, ‘WRITE BADLY WITH PRIDE’ and then they laugh.  Everybody laughs and it cuts the ice.  It works that way.  And I turn around and I smile and I say “Yes!  But I’m not kidding.”

For it is of critical importance for writers to permanently give themselves permission to write badly.  If writer’s block is all about expecting and demanding of oneself perfection.  Anything, any word, any sentence, it’s got to be great.  It’s got to be great.  No!  That way lies writerly death.  You do that and you’ll end up freezing so solid, you’ll never write again.  It is exactly the opposite. Writing is a craft.  It’s a craft.  And how do you participate in a craft.  It’s a craft exercised with words.  And it is like statuary or something…you start out with a big gooey pile of wet clay and start to mush it.  You get your hands dirty.  You get down in the mud and you mush it and squish it and then you start making choices as you shape it, the pieces you’re not going to need and so forth and you go from there.  But you start out with mess.  That’s what we do as writers.  We start with mess and then we make choices.  First hundreds of choices and then thousands of choices.  And before we’re done, tens of thousands of individual choices have been made.  But you cannot make choices and you cannot see what or choose what direction you want your story to go in or how you want it to develop unless you have a pile of words on the page.

So we have exercises sometimes, let’s try it.  Let’s write as badly as we know how.  And it’s funny.  You read them aloud and everybody gets a laugh and this kind of stuff.  And what they find out is…even when they are trying to write badly (because that is what we’re doing.  It’s this little exercise) it still comes out funny.  It’s not bad in other words.  They’re funny, they’re cute, they’re weird, they’re quippy.  But even writing badly, they’re not really writing that badly at all.

Question for the Viewers:  Will you now give yourself permission to write badly?

 

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About Professor Eric Edson:

Eric Edson has written seventeen feature screenplays on assignment. His produced script credits include PASSION’S WEB for Showtime, and he co-wrote and co-executive produced the NBC Movie of the Week LETHAL VOWS starring John Ritter and Marg Helgenberger. Other films include THE ROSE AND THE JACKAL starring Christopher Reeve, THE SOGGY BOTTOM GANG starring Don Johnson, and DIVING IN starring Kristy Swanson. Eric has also written for episodic television.

Professor Edson’s new book “THE STORY SOLUTION: 23 Actions All Great Heroes Must Take,” published by Michael Wiese Productions, uncovers for the first time the 23 Hero Goal Sequences® used in every successful motion picture to create dynamic, three dimensional heroes and link together all plot development from first page to last (Read more here).

 

 

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