Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Life intrudes...

Have to get taxes ready for my CPA, giving me an excuse to let the storms settle in my brain's writing side. So here's an article I stole off The Page Awards Newsletter about Aaron Sorkin:

The article is 
by Zoe Simmons

Writer Aaron Sorkin once said, “I enter the world through what I write.” And I imagine that this is how many of you feel as you work on your scripts in the quiet of your room.

I know that sometimes dreams can seem far out of reach and you may at times wonder whether to give up or continue to hang in there and risk it all. So I thought Aaron Sorkin would be a good mentor for this month.

The first three films Aaron Sorkin wrote grossed $400 million: A Few Good Men, Malice, and The American President. His personal net worth now hovers around $80 million.

But this is a man who started from nothing. He worked his way up. He struggled with his own demons. He risked it all and failed over and over again.

How did he do it? Here are some facts I culled for you to ponder:

While in college, a favorite professor kept telling Sorkin, “You have the capacity to be so much more!” When Sorkin asked “How?” his professor said, “Dare to fail.” Sorkin has been following that admonition ever since.

Sorkin originally wanted to be an actor and it was “just a chore to get through English class.” 

In the ‘80s, as a struggling actor in New York, he was working a plethora of odd jobs: delivering singing telegrams, driving a limo, handing out fliers dressed as a moose, telemarketing, and bartending at Broadway’s Palace Theatre. One weekend while housesitting for someone, he found an IBM Selectric typewriter, started typing, and “felt a phenomenal confidence and joy” that he had never experienced before.

Remember the first time you touched on your own talent – how exciting and remarkable a moment that was?

Sorkin started writing A Few Good Men on cocktail napkins. He would come home late at night with a pocket full of cocktail napkins that he had written on at work, then enter them into the Macintosh 512K that he and his roommates had purchased together. He wrote several drafts of A Few Good Men this way, learning his craft through a book on formatting.

In the early ‘90s, Sorkin did uncredited script doctoring on The Rock, Enemy of the State and Excess Baggage. He then signed a contract with Castle Rock, where he wrote Malice and The American President. The American President took him several years to complete, as his early drafts were over 385 pages long and he had to whittle the script down to the then required 120 pages.

Sorkin’s huge television hit The West Wing came about by sheer accident, as he went unprepared to a lunch with John Wells and in a panic pitched the idea for the show using leftover ideas from his original, overlong script for The American President.

Like you, Sorkin has his “down days,” especially when starting a new script. He readily admits the paralyzing fear that greets him every time he faces that first blank page. He says, “I love writing. I hate starting.”

He refers to himself as a “screw-up.” He does know his strengths, however. He always knew he had a knack for great dialogue. “Dialogue sounds like music to me,” he says. He describes his writing process as “physical” because he will often stand up and speak the dialogue he is writing.

Sorkin says that whether you’re writing a movie, play or a TV series, “your characters have to WANT something. The real rules are the rules of drama, the rules that Aristotle talks about. Somebody’s got to want something, and something’s got to be standing in their way of getting it. You just look for a point of friction. You do that and you’ll have a scene. The underlying motivation is the drive shaft.”

Sorkin believes it is always the artist’s job to entertain the audience. He says, “My job is to captivate you for however long you give me your attention. I want it to have been worth it for everyone to sit through (my work) for however long I ask them to.”

Sorkin’s advice to young writers?

“Every once in awhile you’ll succeed; most of the time you’ll fail. The circumstances will be well beyond your control. Trust your own compass, take risks, dare to fail.”

At the end of the day, he says, “The world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.”

... I encourage you to take Aaron Sorkin’s words to heart. "Trust your own compass. Take risks. Dare to fail." Because, ultimately, that’s the only way you will ever succeed.

Most importantly, as Sorkin says, “Don’t ever forget that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world; it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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