Writing When You Only Have Moments to Spare

To follow up on my earlier post about “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.,” the DVD version features a fascinating conversation among the show’s writers, who came together to talk about the experience of creating 27 episodes in one season.

They described a “war-like environment” and some pretty insane deadlines — perhaps best summed up by what David Simkins, who had previously only written films, said he learned from the veteran writers:

Features shoot whenever; television shoots on Tuesdays.

Brisco_coverMany of the writers were just starting out, but they all went on to be “showrunners” in their own right and worked on the likes of “Lost,” “Charmed” and “Hell on Wheels.”

They told funny stories of learning that an off-hand, poetic comment on a script, such as “He shoots up from the water like a Polaris missile,” can prompt a frenzied response from the producers and crew as they try to figure out how to create that effect on screen.

But what really grabbed my attention was John Wirth saying Tom Chehak taught him to never turn his computer off:

Whatever we were doing, whenever Tom would do a fly-by past his desk, he would sit down and he would write another line of the script, or two lines, or a scene or whatever. Whenever he had a moment, he was getting back to that script, and that’s how his scripts got written.

That discipline and that ability to keep at something when he only had moments to spare meant Chehak was heading home for dinner when the rest of the writers were just getting started on their scripts.

And (this is how my mind works) it reminded me of a documentary I recently saw about Jimi Hendrix and how he took his guitar with him EVERYWHERE. To parties, to other people’s houses, to clubs when he wasn’t scheduled to play. People said you never saw him without a guitar, and he was always practicing or noodling around with a new song. He made it easy to work on his music and almost impossible not to.

I’m going to leave my computer on and my Word file open this week. If nothing else, it will keep my story front and center in my mind — and Hendrix’s music in my ears.

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