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  • Writer's pictureScott Smith

Writing As A Craft

Scott Edward Smith reminds us that writing is a “craft,” and explains the importance of procrastination in the writing process.

A big part of writing is not actually writing. Writing is embracing the “craft of writing” Like a woodcrafter, there is much more to creating a chair or table than the actual physical work. There is the vision. Working out in your head what you want to see.

Melissa: Hi, I'm back with Scott Edward Smith, and we're talking about writing for actors. So today we're going to talk about staying on track. I know, Scott, as an actor when I'm working on a writing project, and I'm also going to direct it, I get so excited about the big picture and the end product that I wanna just jump ahead in the story development process. And it's like, you know, slow down cowgirl, you have to really focus and get all your ducks in a row, of course, before you get to the heavy lifting. So I'm curious, what's the best way that you've found to just stay on track and basically not get stuck?

Scott: Okay. In the big picture of it, it is sometimes, and I've literally done this, I just write it in big letters and post it on the wall in front of me. It's behind the computer that I am not writing on at that moment. It is just to remember writing is a craft. Just like any other creative endeavor.

And that has to be honored. And to honor it, you have to do the work. You know? And so if you're a musician, you're rehearse. If you're an athlete, you work out. You don't get the luxury... It's 6:00 AM and you’ve got to get up and you’ve got go do this stuff or you're not going to win it. And it's just as plain as that. Writers get away with a lot of stuff because no one’s, they don't have a– well, some of them do have a coach, and coaching is an important part of it, if it's appropriate for you.

But it's knowing that you just set a schedule, just set a schedule and if it's complicated because you're paying bills because you have another job, which I would say is 90% of what most writers, actors, musicians, choreographers do until a certain point, but you have to do your best work in that place so that you're not doing the second job to do that. So if you can do it, you know, set it to like between eight o'clock and noon. That's it. I'm in the room, door is closed. Or, if you have a [day] job, maybe it's in the evening and maybe it can only be two hours, but set the time and honor it. Just do it and open up the computer if you, if you've started on something. And, honestly, even if you don't write, don't go to Google. Don't start searching for things. Stay and stare at the page you're writing. And if you don't write anything, you have to get to a place where you understand that that's part of the process. Because if you talk to any athlete, if they worked out seven days a week, I bet they will complain about six of those easily and say they weren't doing enough. and maybe some of them would say it every single day. So you're going to fail a lot, but that's part of it. You have to. If you think this is going to come to you and not fail, you're crazy. If you think someone like Aaron Sorkin doesn't have fear, or doesn't have a work ethic or doesn't have concerns about this stuff, you're crazy. Everybody does. Whether it's your first project or you're him. Yeah. It just happens.

Melissa: So I think a lot of what you're talking about, too, is just giving yourself permission.

Scott: Yes.

Melissa: A little bit.

Scott: Yeah. You do. And I will not speak to the other performance skills or creative skills, but I just assume what’s going on in their head, too, is that you just spend so much time not doing the writing and you've got to come to the conclusion that that's okay. Yeah. As long as it's not detrimental to your cause.

And that's where procrastination comes in. A very quick story. I was at a writer's conference and Margaret Atwood was the lead speaker on it. And, just to be in a room with her was incredible. When they got the Q & A part I was just like, oh, good God, where are we going to go here? What is anyone going to say to Margaret Atwood? Of course one of the questions that came up is, “what's the secret to the success of writing?” I was like, this poor woman. How many times has she been asked this stupid question? And her answer was, without missing a beat: “Procrastination. Learn the art of procrastination.” Of course she said it to get a big laugh and everything, and I thought it was incredibly funny. But I left that place realizing that it’s exactly true, that if you don't understand the art of not doing what you want to do and how it is beneficial to you, you'll never write. Because you have to be in a place where you can think about the writing as opposed to “I'm playing golf and I'm not thinking, I'm not writing.” Well, you can play golf and actually do a lot of writing, right? You know, for a lot of people, and this is true about me, the actual sitting down in front of it, the pumping out of words and dialogues and scenes comes very fast and furious. Especially with Intimate Fame, because I have to produce these once a month, 90 minutes to 2 hours. And I think that's a big challenge. Then I think back to today– a lot of television is getting produced at this level and speed.

Oh yeah. That's when I started, it was tv. So, You have to get past that stuff and just realize that you have to do it. And I can spend two days, you know, hiking or wandering around or just cleaning the house - it doesn't matter - and going, “I have nothing to say,” but I do. In those hours that I have cut out, now I'm in that room and I am staring at the paper. If I write, I write. Maybe I erase it, maybe I keep it, but outside of that time it's never going to leave you. You should always be thinking about it. And then when, at least for me, when it comes, it's fast and furious. The long part to me is the edit. You get on that side of it and then you start parsing it down and you get into the characters. That's where. Those hours become very precious, and you go “whoa, God, it's, it's been four hours already? Okay. I have other things I need to do.” So that's the best part of it.

Melissa: Cool. All of that is so helpful. You know, I think a lot of it for me is about giving myself permission to even just to sit and work on the project. You know, that's pretty hefty. And then to be able to go away from it, clear your head, procrastinate a little, even though you're still working on it, and then come back. So these are all wonderful, wonderful ways to help write. So thank you. I appreciate it.

Scott: Very good. Thank you so much.

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