On Writing in General

Whether we admit it or not, a lot of us wannabe screenwriters with blogs are in awe of John August. He is to screenwriting what Robert Plant is to singing, or Humphrey Bogart to acting: one of those artists that possesses a complete understanding and awareness of his own abilities.

John has posted to his site the text of a recent speech he gave at Drake University, The Challenge of Writing in a Digital Age. Sometimes all it takes is an expert to say something obvious for it to resonate clearly. John offers up the following definition:

Writing is how we demonstrate that we understand something.

For the screenwriter that means your story. If you’re going to write a movie you should have something important to say. You can’t tell a good story if you don’t understand it yourself. A good script should adhere to a certain structure and follow a logical plan. There are as many books as there are blogs on screenwriting, but real insight and understanding only comes through hard work. This is the day to day routine of writing.

This applies equally to other kinds of writing. A songwriter needs to understand the mechanics of emotion. Songs may tell stories too, but if anything, the true purpose of music is to stir an emotional response. What remains true to all kinds writing is not only what you say, but how you say it. As John said at the end of his speech, we should all write like our lives depend on it.