Blog Roundtable 1 – West Wing Weekly

I love Aaron Sorkin, so I really enjoyed hearing in this podcast about his writing process, and I’m hoping to hear your reactions to his thoughts. Three of Sorkin’s notes stick out most to me. He talks about the importance of writing something, anything, every day. This is a technique I’ve heard from other people, too, similar to reading. I’m wondering whether you are able to do this. If so, what kinds of topics/styles do you write every day, and do you ever have trouble finding the time to do it? Sorkin talks about how he tries to write every day even when he has time off—I also like how he breaks down his schedule. What is your style like? Do you outline thoroughly before you start, or do you jump in and write a full piece all the way through, or do you start writing and then organize your thoughts for a bit? Along those lines, Sorkin made the comment that it’s much better to be on page 2 then on page 0 (I can’t remember the exact quote). This is something that I identify with, because the toughest part about writing for me is definitely starting. I really struggle to write anything unless I think I have something that will stick, which I know is not usually the right approach. How do you both attack writing when you’re just starting out with something? I’ve been thinking about lots of these subjects over the past few days, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of them.

5 thoughts to “Blog Roundtable 1 – West Wing Weekly”

  1. First of all, no worries about the late post–I hadn’t even checked the blog until now!
    This moment in Sorkin’s podcast stood out to me as well. I used to have a strict journalling schedule: breakfast was the time for coffee, a quick read from my bible, and a journal entry (usually pertaining to whatever I just read about, but sometimes I went off course). This habit died this past summer when I had to wake up at 6AM to drive to my internship…I tried picking up the routine during my lunch hour, but it didn’t feel the same. So, yes, having to time to write is definitely the most difficult obstacle for me. Since the summer, I only journal intermittently, but I’ve discovered something weird. When I don’t read my bible/journal in the morning, I feel guilty (this probably has to do with my Catholic upbringing), which over time has turned into avoiding the practice altogether. I also don’t like being told to do anything. As a Communication Studies major with a writing minor, I get told to write A LOT. Because of this, writing outside of assignments for school has felt burdensome; however, in the moments I do feel inspired to pick up a pen or open Microsoft Word (more common lately), the words come in a flash. I’m the “jump in and write a full piece all the way though” type of person. For the Gateway course’s repurposing project, I was planning on transforming a short story I had written into a personal narrative. When I sat down to write, a poem came out instead. It reminded me of Flannery O’Connor’s quote: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
    As to attacking writing, I cannot begin a new piece until I have done sufficient research on whatever topic I choose. I recently toured the Clements Library on campus, where I hope to do some research for my Capstone project. I make piles, highlight, and spill coffee (not necessarily in that order), because I believe it increases my authority on a topic. This is something Anthony Doerr, my writing patronus, does very well. He spent 10 years researching and writing one book! I hope I never get that crazy. Or maybe I do. I would encourage you to write anything, even if it may not stick. It reminds me of Sorkin’s comment that he doesn’t sit down with the intention of writing a good episode. He thinks of the characters’ wills and minds and writes about whatever would make sense in their narratives. Luckily for us, producers won’t go with our shitty first drafts and you can erase/mend anything with a glimmer of goodness.

    1. I love that Flannery O’Connor quote — I think about that a lot. That’s what I try to accomplish in writing more and more. Whenever I’m stressed, my dad sometimes says jokingly to me, “You’re a writer — why don’t you try to write some of this stuff down to get some of your thoughts down?” But I have the same trouble finding the time — I’m running late when I wake up, and too tired at the end of the day, and too busy in the middle. But that’s what I’ve tried to do more often, is write to solidify my thoughts.

  2. Honestly, can’t say I’m a huge Sorkin fan…yet! I feel like I have to watch one of his shows to be a fan, without I’d be a phony. One of the best lines, though there were a few, of the Aaron Sorkin podcast was this- “In television, you have to write every day, even if it’s not a good day.” That quote is oh-so relevant to my life as a writer. I produce my best, realest writing when I’m writing often. As you mentioned, Sophia, writing daily used to be such a HUGE part of my life. Journaling, journaling, journaling. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen out of it as well. I used to journal, keep up a blog, write in a gratefulness book…yeah I know…but the point is that it’s stopped and I really have seen a decrease in my drive to write and read. I miss it so much though; my style was raw and real and pretty funny if you ask me! Writing daily was the one time that I could say every goofy thought that ran through my head. Sometimes I wonder if my being anxious or stressed would be lessened by journaling again, just because the thoughts that I’m keeping in are just stuck buzzing around if I don’t happen to call my mom and tell her everything. So the answer to your question Jake- yes! Finding the time to write is hard. It’s a lot easier to call your friends or parents to gab about your day rather than skip your nightly Netflix binge to spew your thoughts onto a page. I’m totally on the same page as Sophia, where I’m constantly writing for class rather than for recreation. I’m a Communications major as well, so so many of my assignments are related to or analyses of media.

    As for attacking and diving into pieces…I think I might disagree with Sorkin on this one. For me, page two is just as difficult as page zero…maybe even easier! I write when I’m riled up about something. I’ll plunge into projects or pieces that I feel passionate about or assume will be successful, well-liked, relatable, etc. (check out my blog for example, I used to write almost daily as I transitioned from high school to college. But now? I only write when my family is pestering me about boys or I’m completely batshit about a job offer. It’s easy to write when excited or anxious or even angry. I guess I’ve got to work on channeling my good, emotional writing into writing that can be good no matter what. Any ideas on how to do this, especially with the project proposal coming up?

    1. OK, that’s interesting that you feel the opposite of Sorkin on page 0 vs. page 2. I’ll try that going forward. I don’t even remember the last time I changed something I wrote after I started, because I can’t start until I’ve got a beginning that I’m almost sure will stick. It’s a funk I’m trying to work out of.

      As for the issue of good, emotional writing, I think that can be great, at least as a starting point and often as an ending point too. I think the best writing is filled with emotion, at least in some form. And at least for me, if I start with something emotional but a little bit frenetic, then I go back and edit and try to polish the style while leaving in the feeling I attached to it. Maybe that’s one way to go about it? I certainly think the best finished pieces of writing still have emotion in them.

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