Because of the fact that writers, more often than not, are solitary creatures – who spend their days and nights locked up in dank basements or sweltering attics – we often get a bad rap. We are seen as creatures of the night, as unapproachable, as shady. So, what I wanted to do was to highlight some of my friends and peers who are in the field and show the world that writers are people, too…and we sometimes have good advice.
With that in mind, I want to introduce to you all a good friend of mine from high school, who has grown into an accomplished woman in the writing field and even helped me to get into my MFA program, Stonecoast. Without her, I wouldn’t have applied in the first place (or even heard about it, most likely).
Erin has freelanced in film and TV production for 13 years in New York City, Portland, Maine and Los Angeles (where she currently lives). She’s written and directed several short films that have won various awards. Her feature screenplay Rock N’ Roll & the Immortal Soul was requested by Sundance and her TV Pilot The Resistance is a finalist at the Austin Revolution Film Festival. She also works as a copywriter/editor for a non-profit and writes for the lifestyle website IAM&CO.
ME: What personally drives you to write?
ERIN ENBERG: I suppose there are two parts to this. I don’t know any other way of understanding the world so it’s an internal way of processing my existence and words have always come naturally to me. But unless I’m journaling or free-writing, I’m always thinking of my reader, or in my case with screenwriting – the audience. I want to make them feel something. For me, screenwriting is all about sharing and expressing emotion.
ME: Who are your influences?
ERIN ENBERG: I can put a list of writers here who I really admire, but to be honest, music influences me more than anything else in life. Sometimes I listen to the same song over and over when I’m writing a scene that has a certain feeling to it. This past spring, I was walking a lot from my apartment to my office and always listening to music. Every day on these walks I had so many new ideas from songs. Even the other day I heard Dancing Queen by Abba. I guess I hadn’t heard it for a while or maybe I hadn’t paid attention to it much. But I was overtaken by a profound sadness (which is not what most people feel when they hear it, right??) – and instantly I had an idea for a thriller/horror. It’s such an upbeat song but there’s something I don’t believe about it. I don’t know the whole story yet, but I thought of a scene where something terrible has just happened and this song is playing. That’s how all of my screenplays start. Usually with a moment inspired from a song and then I have to figure out how to get to the beginning and the ending from this moment.
ME: What’s your technique for escaping Writer’s Block?
ERIN ENBERG: I experienced a type of writer’s block this year, though I think the other word for it is: revision. At least for me, revision is hard. Usually it’s easy for me to write a first draft of something fast. But the hardest part is always revising. I couldn’t wrap my head around some of the revisions I needed to make on my script and I was putting too much pressure on myself. There are times when I can push through because it’s a matter of discipline and I thought I wasn’t being driven enough or working hard enough. But eventually I decided I needed to take a step back. I watched films that inspire me and read screenplays of films I enjoy and watched some good TV. I went outside. Once the pressure was off, it came to me. Feeling inspired helps me refocus. It’s ok if it’s hard work – and I’m certainly no stranger to suffering for it and through it – but if I’m not enjoying it then what’s the point? I doubt the audience will enjoy it either if I’m not.
ME: What’s one must-read book you can recommend?
ERIN ENBERG: Story by Robert McKee. It breaks down the three-act structure of a film and plot points in a very simple way. He discusses well-known films, so you have a frame of reference. I know this has been mentioned before but On Writing by Stephen King is just everything for writers. It’s about writing but also the writing life.
ME: What’s one piece of advice you can give to a new writer?
ERIN ENBERG: When I saw the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things) talk at an event in Los Angeles about how they got started, they said they didn’t try to break down every single part of their scripts the way some people teach a formula. They wrote by instinct. I felt so relieved to hear that. They said if you read a script you can instinctively feel the beats and flow of it. I do believe in breaking down scripts to understand the basic core structure. But getting too caught up in it takes away the magic of the writing. Write your story and then go back and try to understand the structure of it. Don’t let the rules get in your way. Get feedback and use it to make your script better and read scripts that have been made into TV or films and the scripts of other writers at your level. That’s the best way and the only way to really learn. I used to be much more spontaneous with writing and I’ve learned over the years now that outlining helps the process move faster but I don’t let it confine me. Listen to some good music and use the force. Let it flow through you.
If you’d like to keep tabs on Erin, or think she’s cool (like I do) – please give her a visit on her WEBSITE. If you’d like to hear from other authors and writers, check out my other Write Life interviews which are archived under the Write Life tab on my home page (under Categories). Happy writing!