Alice Neel, Frank O’Hara, 1960, oil on canvas, 34 x 16 1/8 in.
Why I Am Not a Painter, by Frank O’Hara
I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.
Let’s face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
From Richard Lederer - Crazy English
- Care about things. Show it. Be funny, barbed, and pointed when needed. Slick is easy; don’t be slick.
- Confidence and arrogance will both protect you when people yell at you. One is vital and one is poisonous.
- Learn to be your own devil’s advocate. Interrogate your own arguments. Interrogate your point of view.
- Successful writers can play loud and soft and can make a variety of harsh and gentle sounds, just like great musicians.
- Look at the people whose careers you admire and think about their paths. Don’t assume you want the fast lane.
- If you are read widely, you will get blowback, no matter what. Don’t let it paralyze you, but don’t reflexively blow it off.
- If you try to make your fortune creating controversy, then even if it works, you’ll be expected to keep doing it.
- Being young doesn’t make you dumb or smart, important or irrelevant. But you’ll be a different writer in 20 years.
- “Win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press’ll think you’re colorful.” Obey deadlines and house style.
- You are entitled to be wrong, to feel embarrassed, to feel like a jerk, and to keep writing anyway.
[as told by NPR’s Linda Holmes]
I feel like the only proper way to write a script is to establish your ending before you even begin. It just makes it that much easier to allude to it throughout the plot. I always go into writing thinking, “I’ll figure it out as I go along,” but when you do that, you’re really eliminating so…
To help really get your plot down and figured out, don’t start with scripting. Start with what’s called a treatment. In my screenwriting class, we did three of these. First was three pages, then five, then seven (all single spaced). It might seem tedious, but remember that if you can’t describe what happens in your scenes in three pages, you sure as hell won’t get to 90 pages without filler. You’d also be amazed at how much your plot will evolve when you have to reduce your writing down to just what moves your plot forward.
When you get to scripting, don’t limit yourself to your treatments. Things will change as you go. But here are two things that my teacher recommended that I found to be really helpful
- Don’t revise as you write. Your first draft is just about getting those 90-120 pages. Like I said, things change as you write. We worked in 20 page increments, so by the time I hit 60 pages, I had a completely different (and better) script than what I envisioned when I wrote the first page.
- If you change your plot, revise your treatment. If you don’t write with a plan, you’ll end up with fluff.
So just some things to think about for all future
Abby, can you think of anything that the amazing J-Keyt said that would help?
Character journals! They were a pain in the ass, but they actually helped for my story since it was so internal. What you do is you pick up a blank journal that looks like something your character would write in. Then you try to write journal entries in your character’s voice. If that doesn’t feel natural (it didn’t for me), try to use it as like a collection of things your character would like. I used a lot of collages, copied down poems, and found art. And since the arc of my story was entirely in this character’s development, it was vital.
“Don’t revise as you write” is absolutely the cardinal rule of finishing anything, ever. Writing is awesome because there’s no such thing as perfect. You could revise one script for the rest of your life and leave it to your kids to revise for the rest of their lives and it still wouldn’t be perfect. First drafts are magic. Don’t ruin it with revising. It’s great to get feedback in increments like we do in classes because you keep it in the back of your head while you continue and it makes your pages stronger as you go, then when you go back for your second draft you have less to tackle.
I write because I can’t do normal work like other people.”
— Orhan Pamuk (via confusionis)
But none of them taught me the things I learned from Carrie White. The most important is that the writer’s original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader’s. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
— On Writing by Stephen King (via lifeofliterature)