” Jesus Christ, man. How do you do it? ” Paul Tassi emailed that to me once regarding my pitches I send him for articles. That was the single sentence that inspired me to write this article. Paul, a guy who runs multiple successful sites, is recently married, has published TWO amazing books and seems like he may be a workbot who never sleeps, was asking ME how I do it. He was asking me this specifically because I had just sent him one of my “pitch batches”, as I call them. Only this time, my pitch batch had a year’s worth of pitches, with close to 100 article ideas. Not long after that, my editor for Stylequirk had asked me the same question, how do you do it, after I did ten weeks straight, with ten original pitches per week.
So I am writing this article not so much to be masturbatory, but to share my writing process a bit with those who may be curios as to how I get ideas or spit out so much work. It is quite clear by the caliber of reader on Unreality that there are a great deal of writers in the mix here, too, and if this intrigues, inspires, or helps any of you, than it will have been well worth writing. Also, this is me, so the process may be quite unlike anything you’ve ever read. And it should go without saying I never have pants on when I write. That’s a given.
The First Step in the Process:
I watch a movie every day.
I should have put Big and The Shining next to each other. Woulda looked like Jack wanted to murder Hanks, and Hanks was scared.
Not once a week, not twice a week. I set aside a couple hours at the end of the day, every day, and watch a film. That is because, at the heart of it, if I always have something to say about movies, I will always have a job and an audience. And also, with the right set of eyes, a movie can inspire dozens of thoughts that branch off in dozens of ideas. At the heart of it, film is something we ALL have in common, so a film a day is a necessary part of my diet. I also find films hugely inspiring on a creative level, and allowing myself that simple pleasure every single day is profound, because it tells me that, even on the worst of days, I allot myself the time and freedom to escape. Sometimes I escape into drama. Sometimes I escape into comedy. Often times, I escape into horror. But film, at its heart, is a huge inspiration to how I work, how I see, and what I say.
And please, don’t mistake watching a film a day as remarkable. Anyone can do it. I RARELY watch TV (even though I write for a TV site), so the time you spend watching shows every night is time I simply choose to spend watching a film. I still watch shows from time to time, but often, that is simply me attempting to be more social with other (eek) human beings.
Second Step in the Process:
I let my ideas branch out naturally and organically from one single thought.
This is why I don’t hang out with light bulb people.
For example, if I feel like writing a horror list, I will then allow myself to go through horror in my head, configuring a list that be different than every cliche horror list you see on every other site. So instead of just using horror in general, I use horror in my head as a launch pad, and the think off of that. Monster horror, human horror, body horror and so on. It is letting a thought evolve that gives me a list like this. And again, anytime I am blank, I know I have a movie that night to inspire a potential handful of new ideas.
I will use the movie The Grey as a perfect example.
Don’t let him seduce you with his steely blues.
While watching The Grey, I pretty much knew I loved the film within the first two minutes, so my mind went into “hunt” mode, which it does anytime I am around anything that may inspire. First thing I noticed in The Grey was the AWESOME plane crash, which inspired this list. Next thing I noted in the movie was, ofcourse, the man versus nature and animals theme, which inspired THIS list and a few others like it. Ofcourse, for me to know and remember allthis inspiration AFTER the movie, I need to keep a notebook with me at all times, no matter what. Not kidding. Just part of my job. A tool of the trade, if I may. A carpenter always has a hammer. A writer should always have a notebook.
This is me sucking good ideas out of the air like a motherf*cking Dyson.
If I am watching a film or show, there is a notebook next to me and pen in my hand. That is the part of the job most don’t understand. As AWESOME as writing is, and it is a pretty awesome job, it is still a JOB, and there are millions of other people who want your job on any given day, and want to prove they are better than you, so unless you want to let the dream die, as well as your voice, you realize that a notebook is a small setback, but that is also KEY to success. That is your job when you are a writer, and when you begin getting complacent and spitting out trite shit, the world will see that and move on. So I don’t allow that to happen to me. I am always scribbling, thinking, getting ideas and mashing them up with other ideas, and making sure the muse never fully flies away. Because as soon as she does, I am back to working a 9 to 5 job at an office, and truth be told, I would stick a gun in my mouth before I would ever do that. Which brings me to….
The Third Step In the Process:
This one is essential. I write what I want to read.
In other words, I try my damnedest to write the article version of this picture every time I write.
I have never written a list I wouldn’t have also read or looked up at some point. Hell, that is half the reason I write the lists I write. Because lists like this and this and this didn’t exist before I started writing. Okay, to say they did not exist is a bit pretentious of me, but they were few and far between at best. I wanted to make sure the mutants like me (whom I now call my REMlins, like a narcissistic douche) could find lists of movies that would actually interest them. Not everyone wants generic “funniest movies” lists, or “scariest movies” lists, because the problem with generic article ideas like that is, every single one is the exact same. They rarely deviate. So I think a big part of the inspiration for me is recommending games and books and movies people would have otherwise never seen or appreciate on the proper level. Anyone can recommend The Life of Pi, but who told you about I Saw The Devil? Anyone can talk about American Beauty, but who told you about Last Circus?
I adored this film and felt many people didn’t understand it for the brilliant satire it really was, and even though any webmaster would have told me not to write it because the movie is old and no one saw it and focus, I have KIND OF proven myself from the standpoint of my profession, and I was allowed to write it. And somehow, it struck a nerve. So much so, that the actual director of the film Shoot Em Up, Michael Davis, wrote me and thanked me for “getting it right” and went so far as to tell me that reading stuff like that is what keeps him going as a director.
How people could NOT know this is a riff on Looney Tunes is beyond me, really.
At that point, little else matters. I got to reach out to an artist I admire and let them know I was affected by their work, and they take the time to let ME know that me being affected by it also affects them and helps perpetuate that work. Do you even grasp how amazing that is? That is an insanely rewarding feeling, and one I never would have gotten if I wasn’t the guy, sitting up at three in the morning with a notebook in hand, watching some French movie where a woman fucks a man to death.
So in closing:
So in simple terms, how do I come up with my ideas? By being batshit insane, incredibly passionate, and knowing that I have a creative enough voice that if I stand up on the highest point in the room and yell, someone will eventually listen to me.
I want to take this moment to thank you, all the regular Unreality readers and commenters, and Paul and Nat. For being the first ones to really listen, for helping me define this (somewhat insane) voice, and for having my back. You all changed my life, and I am forever grateful for that.
So I got ya’ll a baby pig.
You’re welcome. You deserve it.