Writing = Ass + Chair by Jeromy Zajonc

Oliver Stone said “writing = ass + chair.” It was a cold San Francisco night in a hot, stuffy, and overly bright auditorium. Oliver had already answered at least twenty-five questions from an eager and script-hungry audience. Maybe that’s why he gave such a short answer when asked, “What’s the key to writing, Mr. Stone?” Like the crowd that night, and judging by some of the deflated shoulders, you might want a little more than that formula too. (Though I believe he’s right).

What follows is a complete rip-off from my good friends, writers, and filmmakers Logan & Noah Miller. In their book Either You’re In Or You’re In the Way, the Miller brothers write the story of making their personal film “Touching Home.” I thought I would highlight a few thoughts they share and hopefully, in doing so, give you a little more than Mr. Stone during that particular Q&A.

Again, this is straight from the Miller brothers. If there’s any part of you that thinks I came up with this (and have any original thoughts of my own), I encourage you to read the book in full. You’ll soon know I had nothing to do with it, though you’ll thank me for introducing you to their work, and your writing will soon be on the upswing.

Here are Logan & Noah’s “Seven thoughts on our first hell-ride through filmmaking..." (this applies perfectly to writing a screenplay—okay that is my only original idea in this article—please quote me).

  1. Every day is the Cuban Missile Crisis: Your world could blow up.
  2. Surround yourself with gray hair and listen.
  3. Never wait for a phone call.
  4. Stay relentless. Rely on no one.
  5. There are only solutions.
  6. Spend the financier’s money as if it were your own: Don’t be a scumbag.
  7. Either you’re in or you’re in the way.

More than anything, you want to write. You want to do it without regard to what you wrote in the past and hopefully get better along the way. As I say to my writing students, colleagues, and the press in esteemed lectures around the world “Stay relentless. Rely on no one.” Damn, that was a line from those Miller brothers again.

Jeromy Zajonc produced the feature film Touching Home with the Miller brothers. He is the Community Manager at the California Film Institute and producer with Ready Set Entertainment. He doesn’t like cats, but lives peacefully with his girlfriend and her cat Gypsy.