October 28, 2008 Jill

I’m listening to David Milch talking about writing with Bill Kurtis in the Paley Center for Media Studies program called A Conversation with David Milch.  It’s from way back in 2004, but still illuminating.  Man, can Milch talk.  And, man is it interesting.

MilchHere are a few quotes:

The last novel [Herman Melville] wrote sold about seven copies” HIs publisher said.. “Herman, seven copies.”  And Melville said “write the other way I cannot.”

I write the way I have to write.

I spent over a year once writing the same 12 pages word for word every morning.  Every morning.  Didn’t miss a day.  Every day prayed that this would be the day I could change a comma, something”.
I think it’s true in general tha in many improtant ways our lives pick us.
All that time that I was obviously trapped in some obsessive compulsive loop, I was learning.
Now I write as fast as I can.
I regard it as my only responsibility to try and be responsive to the possibilities of the materials.  And those do not become clear to me quickly or with a burst of illumination.  They often reveal themselves to me speech by speech, sometimes line by line, sometimes word by word.  A proper humility which I pray is not a self indulgence, that is the way it’s given me to work.  So that’s the way I work.

”I am respectful to the materials”

On consciousness and writing:

There is a fundamental difference between the processes of consciousness and the processes of imagination although they tend to be thought of as synonymous.  When I said “When I’m in my head I’m in a bad neighbourhood” what I meant was that the process of consciousness to the extent that it means being alive and alert to the stimuli of the present environment which includes anxiety, which includes knowing you’re late, which includes I hate that sob, which include I want to get a date with her”They include… the punitive operation of the recollection of the past such as I’m no good and today’s the day they find out.  It means to the extent that we have been traumatized by past experience  and have developed compensatory magical rituals.  Yes I’m going to write.  First I’m going to sharpen 12 pencils 12 times, I’m going touch my pillow 12 times.  I’m ging to arrange my shoe 12 times.  Then I’m going to go to work.  ”The more that I am responsive predicated on a sense of self — which is after all what consciousness is — I’m in a bad neighbourhood in terms of generating writing.  The imagination the operation of the creative imagination is predicated on ego supression.  To the exten that I am able to diminish my sense of my — Big Dave Milch’s relationship to the environment — I am more able to gain access to my emotional affective sense of the requirements of my characters and the situation they find themselves.  Therefore I do everything that I can to diminish my conscious preparation for the exercise of my imagination. I never think about the story when I’m not writing.  I won’t talk to people about the story.  ”

There was a chemist Kekule  worked for decades trying to figure out the structure of the benzine ring.  One night he went to sleep and he had a dream of snake swallowing its tail.  He woke up.  He said that’s it.  That’s the structure of the benzene ring.  So his student said not bad go to sleep, wake up, got the structure of the benzene ring.  He said, “Visions come to prepared spirits.”

The way that I work comes from a long preparation of the spirit. That is the ability not to think of the work when I am not working. I  have to believe that I will be able to gain access to my imagination as a matter of routine every morning And I work every morning.  I don’t miss.  I don’t think about what I’m going to do when I wake up.  I am available to the operation of my imagination.  But that availability is distinct from consciously making a decision to work.  That is the bad neighbourhood.

Go enjoy this program… Or go prepare your spirit and write.

Comments (3)

  1. admin

    Glad you enjoyed it Ross. Thanks for the link. I just rewatched Adaptation this weekend and ouroboros figures in there too.

  2. OutOfContext

    I downloaded the Milch interview from iTunes (hate iTunes but I had some credit) and found it thoroughly engrossing–he sure is a talker. I had no idea about his background. Two points struck me particularly: his affinity for William James (Agassiz, James’ mentor, was the last Harvard Creationist, by the way) and his espousing of the concept of the fallacy of individual being, which I never would have guessed from his own fiercely independent behavior.
    I just re-watched Adaptation last week with greater pleasure than ever–probably because Kaufman’s everywhere talking about his new movie. If you haven’t already, you should hear him on the recent Creative Screenwriting podcast and on the Fresh Air archive as well. Thanks for the tip.

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