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Take Fresh Starts, Both On and Off the Page

“I’ve got plenty of quirks. I go to an office, early in the morning. Early in the morning is really good writing time. I take anywhere between six to eight showers a day. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not a germaphobe, it’s all about a fresh start. I was writing, writing, and it’s not going well, so start again, take a shower, put on different clothes, and you’ll feel refreshed and start again.”

Six to eight showers sounds a tad excessive, but it’s definitely better than procrastinating online while you have Final Draft open.

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Write Like Yourself 

“What I’m aware of is sticking to my own voice. I learn a lot from other writers. I’m very easily influenced by other writers. I try to be influenced by the good ones more than the not-so-good ones, but you can be influenced by the not-so-good ones, too, in a bad way. Always when I’m starting something I feel like I need to start it in somebody else’s voice. For instance, with The Social Network, I was very aware I was writing for the youngest characters I had ever written for. They alternate between 19 and 25 years old in the movie. I needed to sound youthful somehow. More than that, it was taking place in the 21st century, and I’m not just somebody who’s in the 21st century, so I needed to skateboard it or Mountain Dew it up. One, not all 19 year olds speak alike — that’s not a language. I’m terrible when I’m trying to write like somebody else, and I tried a page and a half of that, pulled my head off my torso, and put it back on and said, ‘You can’t write like anybody but yourself.'”

You can also be influenced by the not-so-good writers in a positive way. Obviously Aaron Sorkin knows more about this than I do, but you can learn from mistakes made by other writers.

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Go Outside of Your Comfort Zone

That is a first for me [writing a character who doesn’t communicate well with The Social Network]. I tend to write characters who are hyper-communicative. I really admire writers — David Mamet, Sam Shepard, and Harold Pinter — who are able to make absolute poetry out of characters who have difficulty communicating, who are hardly ever saying what they mean; it’s a fantastic thing to watch and a fantastic thing to listen to. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to do. My characters tend to use 10 words when one would’ve sufficed. They say exactly what they mean in all different kinds of ways, and I try to make it fun.”

Less is more is generally the case, but not in Aaron Sorkin’s world.

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Once Again, Stick With Your Voice

“When were doing The West Wing, the hardest thing about doing The West Thing was being compared to yourself. You go out there and want every episode to be as good as your best episode. I wrote 88 episodes of The West Wing, and when you do that, one of them is going to be your 88th best, so your 88th best better be pretty good. There are days where I find myself being more aware than I should that whatever I do next is going to be the thing I did after The Social Network, and it’s going to be treated that way. Just deal with it. Just move on. Just stick with your voice. Write as well as you can and move on.”

There’s plenty to learn from this healthy attitude. Block out all the noise and just do your thing. It’s working out pretty well for Aaron Sorkin.

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