Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Monday, November 21, 2005

On Writing

National Post (f/k/a The Financial Post) (Canada)
November 21, 2005 Monday
National Edition
ARTS & LIFE; Out & About; Pg. AL2
The Jerk no more
Chris Knight, National Post

Triple-threat Steve Martin (actor, writer, comedian) recently starred in the film version of his novella Shopgirl, which he also adapted for the screen. He speaks about the writing process in the latest issue of Creative Screenwriting magazine, but it's not the first time he's opened up about his craft; Martin also wrote "Writing Is Easy!" in The New Yorker's 1996 fiction issue. (It's reprinted in his collection of essays titled Pure Drivel.) Here's how nine years have changed him.


1996: As I write this, for example, I am sitting comfortably in my rose garden and typing on my new computer. Each rose represents a story, so I'm never at a loss for what to type. I just look deep into the heart of the rose, read its story, and then write it down.

2005: Sometimes you just sit down and start, as I did with L.A. Story. I like the idea of just sitting down and having vague ideas. Sometimes vague ideas create very original, surprising ideas.


1996: Writing is the most easy, pain-free and happy way to pass the time of all the arts ... I could be typing "kjfiu jiw," and enjoy it as much as typing words that actually make sense, because I simply relish the movement of my fingers on the keys.

2005: I try to write out of excitement -- when it's time, I can't keep myself from the typewriter anymore.


1996: Sure, a writer can get stuck for a while, but when that happens to a real author -- say, a Socrates or a Rodman -- he goes out and gets an "as told to." The alternative is to hire yourself out as an "as heard from," thus taking all the credit.

2005: My take on Roxanne came from talking to a friend of mine. I told him I had an idea to update Cyrano de Bergerac but I couldn't think of what would make it different enough to do it. He said, "Well, he gets the girl." And I said, "Oh, that's a good reason."


1996: It is true that sometimes agony visits the head of a writer. At those moments, I stop writing and relax with a coffee at my favourite restaurant.

2005: I ran [the idea for Shopgirl] by a couple of people at a dinner table to ask them if it sounded interesting and they said it did.


1996: Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.

2005: Whenever I'm stuck I just do not write. I believe in a subconscious process, that on a subconscious level your mind is still working on it.


1996: "Pure" writing ... occurs when there is no possibility of its becoming a screenplay.

2005: Writing a screenplay is work that's inspired, and writing a novel is inspired work.


1996: Sometimes the delete key is your best friend.

2005: You'll see more clearly what needs to be cut if you just lose that emotional connection to the moment of creativity.


1996: Go to an already published novel and find a sentence that you absolutely adore. Copy it down in your manuscript. Usually, that sentence will lead you to another sentence, and pretty soon your own ideas will start to flow.

2005: Years ago I copied down a quote that came from a studio script reader who was analyzing a script. She wrote this line -- "by leaving out the occasional narrative step, the authors hook your interest and avoid the kind of point-blank exposition that so easily deadens interest." I thought that line was great.


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