Sunday, May 16, 2010

How to Work With a Writer the Carl Gottlieb Way

by Michael Dare

Carl Gottlieb put it best, though the tape wasn't rolling, we were just hanging out, having bagels on Fountain, so all I've got to give you is my lame memory of what he said. You've got to believe me that Carl put it better because he's one of the greatest writers in Hollywood (Jaws, The Jerk, WGA hotshot) so he should know. He tried to explain to me what the relationship was between a producer and a writer, or a book editor and a writer, or a newspaper editor and a writer, ANY relationship in which someone is paying someone else to write.

The writer knows what he's supposed to be doing, writing, and if he's a writer, he knows how to do it, rain or shine, writing will happen.

But his boss? Whoever's PAYING him to write? What do they have to do to encourage the emergence of the best possible writing from their employee?

To discover the answer, all you have to do is create an analogous situation, another job where someone is hired to build something, let's say a wall instead of a script, using bricks instead of words.

As the employer, you've hired someone to lay those bricks. You've seen other walls the bricklayer has built and were impressed, which is why you hired them.

But on the first day of work, they show up with weights attached to their arms. You watch them work and can't help noticing they're going slow, sweating enormously, and taking breaks every ten minutes. You go up to them and say "Hey, why don't you take those weights off your arms?"

"Good idea," says the mythical bricklayer, "why didn't I think of that?" And so he takes off the weights and whatayuh know, he picks up speed, stops sweating, and takes less breaks.
Writers use their brains, not their brawn, so it's the duty of anyone hiring a writer to remove the weights from their brains. Find out what they're worrying about. Relieve the worries and the writing will go better. You want maximum brainpower, you won't get it from someone worried about ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING, important or trivial, whatever it is, the gin soaked mind of your average writer will be able to justify NOT writing by any means necessary. You don't cure writer's block by building anything, you do it by tearing something down, whatever dam is jamming up the imagination, send out the brain commandos to obliterate the hindrance.

So ask your writer if there's anything bothering them. Let 'em get it off their chest, then do something about it. Yeah, hiring a writer can actually be harder than being one. Being a writer, the only demons you have to battle are your own.

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