Glad You Asked Department 6/10/13
About a week and a half ago, the lovely and talented Peggy Bechko wrote a blog article that we picked up and re-posted here at TVWriter™ in which answered the oft-asked question, “Where do you write?”
Until I read that, I had no idea that readers/viewers/fans cared where writers did their writing. I mean, I’ve sure never cared where other people write, or eat, or sleep, or have sex, or satisfy any of their other basic needs in life.
And as soon as that reaction equating writing to the basic needs of life sprang into my consciousness I realized that of course I should care about where writers write, and I should share it too. Because if, like me, you’re one of those people for whom writing is an absolute necessity, a primal urge that can’t be contained, you need all the knowledge you can get about how to best, um, satisfy that urge.
So, thanks to Peggy and her legions of fans, here’s my answer. The absolute truth about where Larry Brody writes. And why I’ve chosen to work that way:
When I first started writing in L.A., I worked in the middle of the living room of my tiny apartment, at a desk that was an old door propped up by a couple of cheap, low, sort-of-wood-veneer bookcases, located about 2 feet from the pass-through counter that was the only separation of the living room from the kitchen.
At the time, I didn’t really care where I was because my passion for writing was so all-consuming that nothing mattered but what I was seeing and hearing in my head. The world of thought totally eclipsed the world of everyday.
As I became successful, and more of a family man, not caring turned into a kind of “overcaring.” I lived in a house filled with children, dogs, cats, and, yes, a wife. And a housekeeper. And, as my professional and personal circumstances improved, a nanny joined the mix. With horses looking into the back windows, to boot.
I was doing well and had taken on way more financial responsibility than I should have, which meant that I felt a great deal of pressure. In reaction to that, the sounds and sights that formed in my brain became quieter and dimmer, as though they were frightened away by my situation.
So I locked myself into a totally private office that had been a spare bedroom, decorating it the most productive way I could come up with – wall to wall bookcases, all filled to overflowing because I’d already amassed thousands of books. (Yes, I’d read them all. Maybe we’ll talk about that particular compulsion someday, if someone asks the right question.)
Total isolation did the trick for me. By blocking out everything else, I once again was able to exist in a purely mental world. But, unlike in my early days, I still had to concentrate, to force myself to get on track – and stay there.
Then my career took the fork in the road marked “Staff job” and suddenly I had to go to the studio everyday. When you’re on the staff of a series, regardless of whether you’re the low man or the showrunner (and I worked my way up from the first to the latter as quickly as I could because I hate staying in place), you’re in the middle of a whirlwind of activity that includes meetings, general office folderall, trips to the set to solve (or create) problems…more meetings…more folderall…
For me, this was a tough situation. I had to find a way to grab a few minutes of writing time throughout the day, close my office and keep it closed between attacks of producer mania, and get into that magic place where the stories sang to me so I type, type, type my soul out as quickly and powerfully as I could.
I decorated my office more elaborately, bringing in all the comfort objects I could find. Original comic book art for the walls. Knicknacks. An antique broadsword to swing or hack at the wall with when I was frustrated.
For awhile, that worked. But as I participated in more and more production activities, my writegeist became harder and harder to summon. It became impossible for me to totally immerse myself in my imagination and I had to learn to just get the words down as they came and hope I’d have the time, energy, and concentration to perfect them later.
My work suffered. I suffered. I got into a frame of mind where just thinking about concentrating made concentration impossible. I was loaded with guilt because by not writing I was betraying myself, my family, my staff, cast, and crew, and my audience. I used speed to keep me going. Then it stopped working and I turned to Xanax. Then Xanax stopped working. I looked around desperately for a new way to work–
And found an old one that did the trick. I was in my office at the studio one day, staring from the closed door to the empty page that I couldn’t fill, trying to reach back into my head and get a grip on my mental fastball, when JoAnne, my assistant, knocked on the door and I quickly yelled out for her to come in because I couldn’t stand being alone anymore.
Couldn’t stand being alone? Hmm…
I realized that the reality of my situation was that it wasn’t the writing that was hard for me to handle, it was the solitude that I thought I needed to go with it. Instead of feeling inspired, I felt isolated, and there was only one way to remedy that.
I traded places with JoAnne. I took my script to her desk in the outer office, smack in the middle of the whirlwind of secretaries, assistants, production managers, casting directors, messengers, and their comings, goings, arguments, machinations, good times, bad times…and within that storm of dedicated humanity I found exactly what I needed. The distractions that actually made it easier for me to concentrate.
I was able to handle all the non-writing business while writing at the same time. God, being a part of something so creative and all-encompassing was the greatest damn high!
That’s still where I write. In the middle of everything. Not at the studio anymore but at home, with the windows open to everything a small town has to offer, from my wife and our dogs and our ringing phones to the neighbors’ chickens (gotta get me some chickens again) and UPS trucks and baseball playing kids and teenage drag races – Ah, sweet distractions. How I love you.
Does this work for anyone else? Will it? You’ll have to try it and tell me. Right now I’ve got to let in Oscar, the 8 year old genius up the street.
He’s ringing the doorbell, squee-squee-squee-squee, over and over in a way that once was guaranteed to force any thought but strangulation out of my mind. Soon he’ll be in the living room, throwing the ole tennis ball over where I sit on the couch with my laptop for Dixie the Not-So-Ditsy-After-All Lab to catch. Or maybe they’ll do it with a bone so it can clatter over and over again onto the hardwood floor.
And I’ll be ducking or trying to reach up and catch the ball and toss it myself. While I write. This piece will be finished, but there’ll be something else. There’s always something else.
My purpose here is to help as many undiscovered creative geniuses as possible. But I can’t answer if you don’t ask. So send your questions and make everyone’s day!