Thursday, April 21, 2011

Writing in front of the TV

I have this friend - yeah you know who you are, buddy - who writes with the TV on. I thought that was pretty crazy - how can you not be completely distracted? But the last two days I've felt too sick to sit at a desk so I lounged on the sofa with the TV on and the computer in my lap.

Like a lot of writers, I like to watch films similar in tone to get in the right frame of mine, and sometimes I get inspired by a scene and stop what I'm doing to go write. This time I didn't stop watching, I just started writing.

First I watched Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which was a big mistake because I got all serious and angsty in what was supposed to be a romantic action comedy.

Then I watched Romancing the Stone, and suddenly in the middle of it I got inspired to work on my opening scene some more, and right about the time Michael Douglas jumped into the water after the crocodile I cranked out my fifth page, this time in the correct tone.

Today I tried it again. I watched True Lies while I typed out six pages this time. It helps that I knew my opening shots really well, but it was interesting to try a new method of setup for my writing experience. I'm not saying I'll do it all the time, because I still like to focus and use music to inspire and I'd worry about being a little too inspired by whatever I'm watching, but every now and then it's good to make sure I can still write in the middle of - or in spite of - a big distraction.


  1. okay. I don't do it ALL the time.

    I am doing it right now, but, uh, Sundance has a fascinating Persian film on and 'Conan' just finished and uh...there's no excuse.


  2. I spent the last two days listening to Adele while trying to write and play Farmville.

    I tended my crops. So, um, that's something.

    I sometimes have Casablanca, Cinema Paradiso, or Star Wars running in the background because I'm so familiar with them.

  3. Harlan Ellison says that a writer should be able to write anywhere, anytime. To make his point, he's done "performance writing" in the window of a bookstore.

    Of course, nowadays, with coffee shops and laptops in most bookstores, that's no big deal. But in the 60s and 70s, with a manual typewriter, it attracted more attention. (He would write a complete short story in a pre-determined length of time this way. He still does this from time to time.)

  4. Writing in a coffee shop, with music playing, with tv/movies in the background, or early in the morning: all things that didn't make sense to me until I tried them.

    Growing as a writer means creating an arsenal of tools and techniques to get in the zone and get the job done. If something works for another writer, it's usually worth trying for yourself to see if it works for you or not.

  5. I also don't do it all the time, but I feel like writing is something that you can;t force. Sometimes it's easier to get distracted or feel like the writing is being forced if you are sitting at a desk. Sometimes it's nice to have the TV on for background noise. I like to use movies that I've seen plenty of times. That way I have the nice background noise, but the story doesn't distract me too much. My favorite movies to put on for noise are The Phantom of The Opera and Melancholia, both are very dark also sort of romantic and bittersweet in a way :)


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