You never know when it will come in handy.

Read all kinds of stuff. I’ve got a friend who never subscribes to magazines, but he goes to bookstores and pulls magazines off the rack that catch his interest. Less of an investment than a subscription, and you would be amazed what you find at newsstands. Magazines you had no idea existed.

And, if you push yourself to read stuff that may not be right up your alley, it may really pay off.

I am currently working with a producer about an idea, and two articles I had read within the past three years blasted together like atomic particles (or puffed wheat, shot from guns!) with a nonfiction book I read over Thanksgiving and together, floated to the surface of my murky brain… Their content combined and twisted my original idea (that was hacky and derivative from every movie I’ve ever seen) into something that smells like a MOVIE and is incredibly interesting because it’s based on real life.

We’ll see how it goes.

Reading informs your writing when you start because it shows you what other people are doing as you work to find your own voice. Reading informs your writing when you’re further down the craft road because you can find little things you want to try in your own work, or things to avoid!

You read something good and you want to raise the bar on your own work. You read crap and you realize that your bar has been raised on its own over the years. For example, there are some authors I can’t read because the writing is so bad. This is interesting if I return to an author I used to like, but because of the reading I do, I realize they just… ain’t that great… and I put the book down.

Anyway, this is a bit of a disconnected ramble… but I was so pleased that these distantly separated bits of reading-from-the-past combined to help me come up with a killer idea, that I had to share.

I hate that word. “Share.” Reminds me of when I was in church at age 16, chasing after my 16 year old girlfriend, and a guy in camo fatigues came up wanting to witness / share about his experiences in Viet… nam. “Nam” rhymed with “Spam.” When he was done sharing about all his agonies, I realized I hadn’t wanted him to share it at all. Like the punchline to the old joke, “I don’t believe I’d have told THAT, brother…”

Hope you don’t feel that way about this post!



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6 responses to “Read ALL THE TIME!

  1. During college, I never believed that reading would help my writer. What do those professors know? Now I realize that it is very important. You never know what will piece together. Great post!

  2. Yeah, we’ll see if I know what I’m talking about after this producer gets done discussing my swell idea with me!

  3. JBC

    Hey Doc – I’m heading over to Iraq as a Navy Reservist next month. I hope to gots lots of info and experience I can use in my screenplays – and promise not to return as “angry camo guy.”

    • Good luck over there. I’m sure there’s tons of great material, busting to be given its freedom.

      Here’s two good pieces of military dialogue, both from A FEW GOOD MEN.

      I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash your badge, and make me nervous.


      Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls need to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and curse the Marines; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives and that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use then as the backbone of a life trying to defend something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said “thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

      Whew, that Sorkin fella, he can write!!

      • JBC


        Sorkin is one of my favorites. His dialogue is always great and, considering the volume and speed of his work, its amazing how often he gets his facts right.

        As a military guy and someone whose been around politics it bugs me when I see characters doing or saying things nobody in the biz would do. Its always blatantly clear when a writer or producer has no experience or knowledge of govt/military functions. Too few bother to check their facts and given how easy it is to get the details these days this just seems like laziness to me.

        Although I don’t think he has any formal govt/military experience Sorkin really stands out as somebody who takes the time to check his source materials.

  4. Pingback: Golly Gee, I better blog now | Lorel Clayton Author

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