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The Difference between Talent and Craft

From Episode 1: "Be Kind to Your Ideas (a.k.a. Let 'Em Suck for a Minute) with Erin Kron"

SAM: I want to talk about the difference between talent and craft. This goes back to when I would wake up in the morning in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and it’d be twenty below and I’d get in my car and I’d drive to your house and I’d have the best idea ever that we were going to write.

JIM: I’m having PTSD, and I don’t know if it’s the winter or you having an idea.

SAM: I know. And I’d be like, “This is it man, this is the best thing ever.” And then, you know what, it would be an okay idea, and then…we would have no idea what to do with it.

JIM: Brick walls.

SAM: Right, it was just like, “Oh, no this is good, this is good!”

JIM: But how do we turn it into a story?

SAM: How do we do that? And of course the answer to that is craft. The thing with being talented or having some inspiration…it’s like everybody’s got some, and some people have a lot. But if they don’t have the craft, they can’t get it out. There’s no way to get it out of your body. Right? And, even more important than that is now, ever single day, whether we’re in the mood or not, whether we’re feeling creative or not, whether I’m pissed off about taxes, or I’m pissed off about the president, or whatever it is that I’m pissed off about, it doesn’t matter because once that bell sounds at ten o’clock, we’ve got to make stuff.

JIM: Right.

SAM: Sometimes it’s intimidating. A lot of times it’s intimidating! I was watching this Netflix show about brain surgeons, and they were literally pulling the top off of someone’s head and digging around in there trying to find the cancer, and you know what I thought?

JIM: What, are they going to find a good story idea?

SAM: You know, if they could, I would let them take the top off my head just to get it out.

JIM: They wouldn’t find one.

SAM: No…no you’re right, they wouldn’t. But, you know what I thought? And I know this is nuts — I thought, “Oh my God…that job looks so much easier.” Because you just know, you go to work, and you scrub up, and you go do brain surgery, which you have done every single day, and you’re gonna do it more or less the same way. But, then we get in the room at ten o’clock in the morning, and the deal is we’ve got to come up with like, a great story — and I don’t got it.

JIM: But that is the thing, you’re absolutely right, and the thing about craft is knowing where to find the story. Which you don’t always know when you’re starting off, when you’re trying to run on just talent — how do I get into it, how do I tell the story? And you do learn those, there are craft tricks that tell you how to find the story and how to get it going.

SAM: And that’s what was happening when we were on our first writing job on Dead Zone, when the senior writers were starting to pop the story and they were asking each other the questions. “Well, what does the character want, what’s getting in the way, why is he doing this? And what do they want — you know, what’s our big action sequence?” Don’t care. I want to know what’s the worst thing that could happen to the character right now. And let’s just start throwing stuff out, and you’re like, and you’re looking at me like, “Well how does that relate to the fact that we have to blow up the Super Dome or whatever?” And the answer is that it’ll come out of that.

JIM: Right. Intention/obstacle.

SAM: Right, and that’s craft. So, it’s too late to be a brain surgeon.

JIM: Is it, Sam? Is it really?

SAM: All the easy jobs are gone. We have to face the most terrifying thing, to me anyway, and to you, and to a lot of writers, which is the blank page. And craft is the way to do it. And hopefully we’ll do a little bit of that on this show.

#writingtips #screenwriting

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