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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

David Mamet: Do one thing for your art every day, and one thing for your business


For the past few months, ads for MasterClass.com have been following me around the web. Somehow they figured out I might be interested in their content—I must have clicked something—and I've had their ads popping up all over the place on different sites. That's annoying.

But...

While most ads I tend to be able to ignore, they managed to suck me in. And I'm here to report that some of their stuff is pretty good.

For those not familiar, MasterClass offers online "classes" with different prominent people in the arts (and even a fews sports figures and others.)

Presenters include: Annie Leibovitz, deadmau5, Aaron Sorkin, Hans Zimmer, Steve Martin and David Mamet.

These classes are all in the same format; a series of short video lectures by the presenter, each of the individual lectures being anywhere from about 5 to 15 minutes long. There's also a workbook provided with each course, that includes highlights from each lecture.

Though I don't really think you'll learn everything you need to know to become a comedian, or a writer, or a filmmaker, from watching one of these courses, they are very inspiring. For the sessions I've watched so far, each presenter talks about how they got started, and how they go about; writing a play, writing a screenplay, or making a movie.

You can buy unlimited (perpetual) access to a single course for $90, but I think the better value is to do a year's subscription for $180, which gives you unlimited access to all of the courses. I've already watched Steve Martin's and David Mamet's courses all the way through, and am part way through several others including Aaron Sorkin, Hans Zimmer and Werner Herzog.

Here's some of my notes from the David Mamet course.

I'll be honest, before watching David Mamet's videos, I knew of only some of his work; I knew the name, but I didn't know that much about him.

Early on he provided a great quote from Hemingway: "Writing is easy – you just sit down at the typewriter and bleed."

I liked that quote. I liked it enough to Google it, and discovered that while it's variously been attributed to Hemingway, it's more likely that it's a variation on "You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed," from Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith, used in 1949.

It's still a great quote.

He also said one thing that I wasn't sure I agreed with, that we must: "Tell stories as honestly as we can." It sounds good, and if you said that storytelling is about revealing 'truth' then I'd probably go along with that. But I don't think storytelling is about telling stories as honestly as you can.

That's why all those movies say "Based On A True Story,' not "A True Story.'

But that's just me.

Here's some other quotes from the lectures I wrote down:
  • Write the best story you can and throw out all the good lines. (I think that's a variation on the 'kill your babies' idea.)
  • I'm not any less uncertain about my work or my worth than you are, I just got into the habit of doing it. And you can too. 
  • Two things I learned;  Cut away that which is not needed and Keep doing it
  • Many people would rather put up with lethargy and would rather put up with failure, than put up with uncertainty.
  • I go back and forth between this is the greatest thing anybody ever wrote, and why was I born, I'm a complete fraud.
In reality, it's more stuff to inspire you and guide you, rather than nuts and bolts instruction on how to do things.

Finally, he offered a piece of advice that you can immediately take to heart: Do one thing for your art every day, and one thing for your business.

That's great advice, because I tend to suck at the business side of things.

My only question is; if writing is your art, does editing count as business?

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