Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Rehearsing with a typewriter

with 4 comments

Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide

I don’t mind throwing work away. I think that every pass at a scene is like an improvisation. You could improv it one time or fifty times. Even if you find one line of dialogue and the rest of the scene is no good, that’s great. I roll pages a lot—I use a typewriter. I’ve got tons of crumpled-up paper all over the place. I read, throw it out, start again, read, and start again, as if I’m rehearsing a scene. I know a lot of people like using a computer to make changes because it’s more convenient, but I find that with a typewriter, every time I’m forced to retype the whole page, it’s like another rehearsal. It’s like in the theater where actors rehearse a scene for six weeks before they go on stage. They begin to internalize their roles and the repetition is the act of creating the character. For me, the repetition of retyping a scene is part of writing really good scenes and good dialogue, constantly rewriting as I go along, doing it again, over and over, until it begins to form up and the energy starts to shape itself. But even then, it’s never final.

Michael Schiffer, screenwriter of Crimson Tide

Written by nevalalee

August 8, 2015 at 6:58 am

4 Responses

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  1. I’m not a screenwriter but I do this all the time. I can’t use a typewriter because a lot of times I’m writing while my daughter is asleep. I find I’m writing on my phone a lot which slows me down like a typewriter would. I’ll delete the whole thing and start over if I hate it or because it takes so long to type, I’ll think of something totally different in the midst of writing one thing. The story ends up being nothing like the original idea-all the better I think. Great quote. Thanks for sharing.


    August 8, 2015 at 8:43 pm

  2. @originaltitle: There’s probably a blog post to be written on how writing on a phone—which I’ve done a few times—affects the creative process. I’ll have to take it up one of these days…


    August 9, 2015 at 8:01 pm

  3. I don’t use a typewriter like mentioned in the quote above but I do feel like there is some truth in that the process of writing, or rewriting, can go on indefinitely. I like too, that he suggests almost like this momentum thing that happens when you continually are rewriting one scene, over and over, trying to get it right and all of a sudden, it becomes its own force of nature, seemingly shaping itself. good quote


    August 12, 2015 at 1:01 pm

  4. @cypherseeker: “Momentum” is a good word, and one of the nice things about retyping something you’ve already written is that it generates a certain momentum of its own.


    September 6, 2015 at 2:19 pm

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