Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Writing Advice: Winning the Arguement

"No. You're listening to me, but you're not understanding me."
"No, I'm disagreeing with you. That doesn't mean I'm not listening to you or understanding what you're saying - I'm doing all three at the same time."
- Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing

Everyone has arguments that come up again and again in their lives. Generally these arguments are with our families, our significant others, our closest friends. These arguments may start over trivial matters, but they return to a clash of core values. They return to an essential disagreement that may or may not be insurmountable. But the words used are always similar, the arguments always the same.

These are GREAT fodder for writing, particularly generating raw material.

I recently invested myself in one of those endless arguments, and I went down to sit at my keyboard. And I rewrote the argument. This time I got to say what I wanted to say from the depths of my heart, and I allowed all my messiest thoughts out onto the open screen. This time, I was able to win the argument. This time, I could make the other person listen.

I generated a great deal of good material. It'll need editing, and who knows how much of it will end up in my play...but it was a wonderful exercise in getting to the deep, vulnerable stuff that makes good writing and it also allowed me to have control over the situation, which I never do in real life. I simultaneously lost all control and gained complete control.

So if you're stuck right now as a writer, go back to some essential argument. A place where you fundamentally disagree with someone else's view. Rehash every bit of that argument -- really explore what's there. You might find that you change your mind. You might find that you still believe what you believe in your deepest core. But in the end, you should also have a lot of good material for your play.

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