Dear New York

I just spent three months in Manhattan, my first time despite two decades of living a suburban stone’s throw of the City limits. I left the ‘burbs and spent my early twenties happily living in San Francisco. I had no desire to move to New York. There was just too much of everything: noise, people, concrete. But then a Manhattan internship called and I had to answer, no matter how reluctantly. 

I mentally braced myself, but in this city of irony and excess I was taken by surprise by the number of things that moved this old robot heart of mine. They were all odd little moments and intangibles, which I’ve tried to record below.. 


When you’re riding the subway just minding your own business and suddenly another subway sidles up , window-to-window, and offers this little human tableau to you like a bouquet, a little compartment of humanity clicking right there alongside you, lit up like a stage. 

I don’t know why I get such a kick out of this phenomenon, but it’s like a friendly pop to the sternum every time, a little smile jolt. Maybe it’s the visual metaphor of the thing - you’re sitting alone in this shadowed tunnel and bam! Someone appears beside you, in a compartment just like yours, minding their own business, another light in the darkness. 


I love the past and the future, the rust and the cranes. 

The old buildings, the broken hinges, the layers of paint, the faded logos of forgotten companies, the abandoned neon: the whole array of them, all together. The buildings are like chess pieces arranged just so, except for when you get down to the Village, where it’s like someone got drunk shook the table. Some of the pieces are grubby, some marbled, some chipped, some steel. They all show the history of the game. 

You have all of old New York spread around you and then you walk on the High Line in the rain and see the new construction sites from above, yawning open like a broken tooth, all concrete and rebar and potential. One day people will walk here, will hang paintings and rearrange sofas here, and then this fresh rebar will be torn down to make way for a new building  And New York will still be New York. 


I was a kid when I first read about ancient Rome, how when archaeologists started digging beneath the ruins, they found another, even older city underneath the foundations. Mind sufficiently boggled, I imagined whole depths of cities, all the way down to the molten core of the Earth, temples and roads and libraries, stacked up a like a house of cards. I never really had a frame of reference experience for what those archaeologists felt until I really started exploring New York, because that’s what it was like - cities within cities within cities, individual ecosystems of hardware stores, restaurants and dry cleaners. Apartments stacked to the sky. You start to get your bearings in the East Village and then you hang a right and it unfurls towards the horizon like a cartoon rug, a whole new microcity.  It’s Rome, it’s Narnia and you can feel the ghosts, the pockets of cities around you, beneath you, above you. 


2013 Resolving

So my first stage of 2013 Resolutions are simple and straightforward: Write More, Read More, Run More. 

So in that spirit, I want to bring back this “Creative Bank” blog idea much more to it’s original purpose, rather than allowing it to continue pretty much only as a filing cabinet of Instagram photos. I want this space to be a place where I collect my own work and also the work that inspires me. Let’s see how that goes. 

Tags: writing

When copywriter Robert Pirosh landed in Hollywood in 1934, eager to become a screenwriter, he wrote and sent the following letter to all the directors, producers, and studio executives he could think of. The approach worked, and after securing three interviews he took a job as a junior writer with MGM.

Pirosh went on to write for the Marx Brothers, and in 1949 won an Academy Award for his Battleground script.

(Source: Dear Wit.)

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around. 

I have just returned and I still like words. 

May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh
385 Madison Avenue
Room 610
New York
Eldorado 5-6024
Tags: writing

A word that does not exist in the English language:


Arabic – Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.

(via ladislaws-deactivated20140202)

Great tiny example of how “voice” can come across in unexpected places. 

Great tiny example of how “voice” can come across in unexpected places. 


I’m more of a word than math guy, but this numeric idea I proposed in 2011 is one of the most popular things I’ve ever posted on GITS. It is a simple formula to do three things — Read Scripts. Watch Movies. Write Pages. — you need to do to expand and deepen your understanding of the screenwriting craft.

4 numbers for you to remember:

1, 2, 7, 14.

1: Read 1 screenplay per week.

Pick out your favorite movies. Or do a genre study of several scripts in a row in one genre. Try scripts in genres you don’t particularly like to experience different tone and atmosphere. But every week, read at least 1 full-length movie screenplay.

2: Watch 2 movies per week.

Go to a theater and watch 1 movie for sheer entertainment value. Rub shoulders with a real crowd to remind you of your target audience. Then cue up Netflix or pop in a DVD, and watch 1 movie to study it. Note its major plot points. Better yet, do a scene-by-scene breakdown. Maybe 1 new movie, 1 classic movie. But every week, watch at least 2 feature-length movies.

7: Write 7 pages per week.

That’s one page per day. It may take you ten minutes, it may take you an hour, but however long it takes, you knock out a page per day so that every week, you produce 7 script pages.

14: Work 14 hours per week prepping a story.

This is how you will learn the fine art of stacking projects. While you are writing one story, you are prepping another. Research. Brainstorming. Character development. Plotting. Wake up early. Take an extended lunch break. Grab a few hours after dinner. Stay up late. Whatever it takes, carve out 2 hours per day for story prep. Create a master file Word doc. Or use a spiral notebook. Put everything you come up with into that file. You’d be amazed how much content you will generate in a month. Most professional screenwriters juggle multiple projects at the same time. Here’s how you can start learning that skill-set: Writing one project, prepping another. Two hours per day so that every week, you devote 14 hours to prep.

1, 2, 7, 14.

Those are simple, clear goals. Daily goals, weekly goals.

If you do this, here’s what you will have done in one year’s time:

You will have read 52 screenplays.

You will have watched 104 movies

You will have written 2 feature-length screenplays.

Spread that out over 5 years: 260 screenplays, 520 movies, 10 original screenplays.

That means you could have read every one of the top 101 screenplays as voted by the WGA, plus 159 more.

That means you could have seen every one of the IMDB Top 250 movies, plus 270 more.

That means you could have written the exact number of original screenplays Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Bodyguard, The Big Chill, Grand Canyon) wrote before he sold his first one.

All by setting these simple goals: 1, 2, 7, 14.

UPDATE: And now Sergio Barrejón has translated this post into Spanish on his blog here.


Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that - but you are the only you.

Tarantino - you can criticize everything that Quentin does - but nobody writes Tarantino stuff like Tarantino. He is the best Tarantino writer there is, and that was actually the thing that people responded to - they’re going ‘this is an individual writing with his own point of view’.

There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better - there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.


- A bit of writing advice from Neil Gaiman.

Word. About words.

(via adamdorsey)

(Source: faramirs, via mrgregfrancis)

Tags: writing advice
"If you want to write, read a lot, then write a lot. Write all the time… and never, ever worry if you’re bad. I’m bad every day. My first drafts are some rough road. You just have to not be afraid of sucking."

— Maureen Johnson (via planb-becomeapirate)

(Source: shelf-awareness.com, via mrgregfrancis)

Tags: writing advice
"Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become."

— C. S. Lewis (via literarynerd)

(Source: anenlighteningellipses, via annoiato-deactivated20111118-de)


That’s the ten-word answer my staff’s been looking for for two weeks. There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They’re the tip of the sword. Here’s my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it? Give me ten after that, I’ll drop out of the race right now.

Every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren’t very many unnuanced moments in leading a country that’s way too big for ten words. I’m the President of the United States, not the President of the people who agree with me. And by the way, if the left has a problem with that, they should vote for somebody else.


— President Bartlet, though I don’t think Aaron Sorkin would mind if President Obama stole a few of these words right around now