Monday, February 11, 2013

Graham Linehan on Feeding the Subconscious

I've been spending many of my nights lately watching BBC shows on The YouTubes.  One such show has been Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, a show all about television.

Brooker's shows are typically angry, venomous crees against the television industry and the muck that gets shown on TV.  While most of them are very funny (not to mention NSFW), I have yet to see an episode where I haven't thought they didn't push things too far and went headlong into the realm of bad taste.

Save for one episode.

Season Five, Episode Three is a completely different format.  In this episode Brooker talks with several of Britain's top television writers about the writing process.  It's a fascinating show, if only to see the common themes that emerge.  The universal truth that writers face many of the same struggles regardless of the type of writing is, I think, a good thing to hear.  At least it makes me feel less alone in my insecurities and head-bashing-against-the-wall problems with my manuscripts.

One of the people Brooker interviews is Graham Linehan.  Linehan is one of the writers behind the absolutely brilliant Father Ted, Black Books, and The IT Crowd. (if you haven't watched either of these and have any appreciation at all from British Comedy, go find these programs NOW) Here's what one of the writers who has made me laugh harder than anyone has to say about his writing -- and lack of writing -- process.

(Taken from 11:10 in the program above)
I might spend a day and never write down a word and then I'll go to bed feeling a bit depressed and a bit worried and I'll think I really have to do something, you know?
Then the second day will come up and I'll wake up, still worried, and then I sit down at the computer and I think because I'm so worried that I'll ease into it and I start procrastinating again.
And then another day passes and I still haven't done anything.
And then the third day -- or maybe the fourth, or maybe it's into the second week, I don't know -- but at some point I start having ideas.  I start  panicking so much that I think I need to start looking at something.  
I look at things I find funny online or I see if there's anything that I've seen that's struck me as being funny lately that I can use.  I have a web site and I post up anything that I find funny...
So all of these things that I'm procrastinating, I'm filling my time with, part of it is fear and not wanting to sit down and write, but the other part of it is feeding the subconscious.  
Because if you keep feeding the subconscious, because if you keep feeding the subconscious at that stage, it will build up and build up and build up.  And then finally you do have to write, hopefully you have built up a kind of store of stuff in your subconscious that you can draw from.  

The entire program is well worth watching, even if you haven't heard of the writers or the programs they write for.  (In some ways that might even be better.  It allows for a more detached appreciation for what they're each talking about.)

What do you do to feed your subconscious?  Do you have any tricks or favorite activities?

-- Tom