Thanks for listening, six seconds at a time.

I started doing the Six Second Screenwriting Lesson Vines on a whim. There was no preplanning or strategy. I just had something to say, so I said it, directly, without any sort of thought to what kind of impact it might have, to who might see it, to what they might say about it. If I had thought about any of that, I might’ve made sure to blink or choose a more flattering light or wear a cool hat or something. 

On reflection, I know that what prompted it were a series of questions I had been getting on twitter whenever I did a q and a. These questions seemed to carry certain assumptions with them, assumptions that came from various screenwriting books, seminars, websites that these (mostly) young aspiring screenwriters were taking as bedrock foundational facts.  As a lifelong student of con artists, scammers and false prophets, it rankled me that there was so much misinformation being slung out there for profit.  Usually propagated by so called experts who had never written any actual movies. Or tv shows. Or anything. 

And it rankled the shit out of me.

So I opened Vine, pointed the iPhone at myself and said what I was feeling, which was: “All screenwriting books are bullshit. Read screenplays. Watch movies. Let them be your guide.” And then, before thinking about what I was doing, I saved it and tweeted it.

The reaction was pretty immediate. A few of my friends made fun of me. Which I expected. But a whole bunch of other people thanked me. Actors, writers, producers, journalists. By then, a few hours later, I had recorded and posted a few more, also mostly as a response to the received ‘wisdom’ that was out there in the screenwriting guru movement. And once again, I saw that there were writers, artists of all stripes really, who were waiting, not for me, but for someone to speak honestly, personally, about what they believed was actually important in the creative process. And what was bullshit. 

So I kept going. I made two rules for myself. 1) I would only say what I absolutely believed. What was absolutely true in my own experience and 2) I would do one a day for as long as it seemed that that I still had something to say and that there were people who still wanted to hear it. 

I’m up to number 86 now. And I have say, it’s been at least as beneficial for me as it has for anyone else. I have realized that the person I am mostly talking to is me, reminding myself, encouraging myself to press on each day, to commit each day to being honest on the page, to writing without fear, to writing despite the distractions, to writing when I don’t feel like it, to writing even when I’m certain that it’s all been a lucky accident that’s bound to end any second. 

As I’ve said before, I was a blocked writer until my 30th year. My goal ever since then has been to keep the dark voices, the inner critical voices, at bay for long enough each day to get something down on the page. 

One of the ways I do it is by talking to you. And myself. Six seconds at a time. Thanks for listening and responding and letting me know that it helps. 

Have a great Thanksgiving.  If you give yourself a day off from writing, do it without guilt. And if you decide to write despite the urging of family and friends, do that without guilt. 

And get up tomorrow and do it again.

That’s what I’m going to do. 

At least I hope so. 

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12 Responses to “Thanks for listening, six seconds at a time.”

  1. Jonathan Winn Says:

    Brian, You said …

    “I have realized that the person I am mostly talking to is me, reminding myself, encouraging myself to press on each day, to commit each day to being honest on the page, to writing without fear, to writing despite the distractions, to writing when I don’t feel like it, to writing even when I’m certain that it’s all been a lucky accident that’s bound to end any second.”

    … This is what people are responding to. Beyond the useful information lies a sincerity that’s tough to match. You’re saying, in essence, this is what you’ve seen, this is how it is, this is what it’s really, really like, and this is, as a Baby Writer, what you need to know in order to help create the career you want. That’s what people are hearing and appreciating.

    And if your words serve to remind you of what YOU need to do and what YOUR dreams still are, all the better.

    But should you ever need a kick in the pans to get back to work, you know where to find me.

  2. Carlin Michel Says:

    Thank you for that. So i have a question, is there ever a time when you dedicated almost all of your time on your craft? As of right now, my parents are in my ear saying how i dont spend enough time with them anymore. Am i doing a good thing? It feels like it but outside forces says otherwise.

    • Brian Koppelman Says:

      This is difficult to answer without knowing your exact situation. There is an excellent book that speaks to this question: The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. Also: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron has a bit that talks about people close to you not understanding. In general, I’d say protect your ability to do your creative work as long as it is not harming you in some other way. If you are inspired to work, to write, then do it. And be kind and patient in explaining why. Or at least, don’t fight about it.

      • Carlin Michel Says:

        Thank you for that. And to be more specific, i didnt spend thanksgiving with my family because i had this idea, this spark that i believe would dwindle down if i didnt work on developing it asap. It was a small idea that really didnt mean much in context of a narrative, but the idea itself was brilliant, at least i believed so. I just felt like i had to build it up to make sense with a story, which i did and totally proud of it.

  3. Rustin Says:

    From a guy who didn’t start writing until my mid 30s your vines are truth, and you can see that you believe them. people say stuff all the time but you can see they don’t actually believe it.

    that’s pretty much the first thing i look for when deciding who i’m going to listen to, whether it’s my business life, or my writing life. ‘

    many people try to bend my ear on a daily basis, you are one that i actually listen too.

  4. Rich Scott Says:

    Brian,
    I can’t tell you how much your 6 second vines have helped me since I found them a week or so ago. At this point (post #89) you have given me 534 seconds of pure inspiration, motivation, and insight into helping me be a better writer. This blog post I think best encapsulates the past 534 seconds and I can’t thank you enough. I read this post as I was headed to Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I am thankful for many things in my life, and this post and your vines are certainly one of them.
    Thanks again and please keep posting!
    Rich

    • Brian Koppelman Says:

      Rich,
      So glad to know that you are getting something out of the Vines and blog posts. Keep grinding, keep writing, keep going.
      Wishing you all the best.
      B…

  5. llmri Says:

    Your six second bits completely freed me to write what I give a shit about the way I see it. After watching the very first one, I started a new draft I called “FUforums.” IMO, you told us the best thing we could ever be told. Thank you. If I never have a screenplay produced, THANK YOU. (BTW, John August said pretty much the same thing at DoneDeal and a bunch of wannabes attacked him. There’s something beyond ironic in that.)

    • Brian Koppelman Says:

      I am so happy to hear that you get something out of it. That’s why I do it. John August is a good man. And a smart man.

  6. llmri Says:

    Reblogged this on Fading in and commented:
    Free your mind.

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