1. I’m old and prejudiced, but I think that sometimes, I can tell when something’s been written entirely on a computer. I always do a first draft in longhand, on yellow legal pads. This feels more leisurely and more emotional. When I’ve tried to write a first draft on my Mac, the results have felt hollow, like a dutiful homework assignment.
2. In comic playwrighting, the greatest gift is the bonus laugh. This is a reliable laugh which comes as a complete shock, on a line which was never intended to be funny. This sort of laugh emerges organically, as a blessing. In my play The New Century, the sublime Linda Lavin had a line in the play’s final scene. Another character asked her if she was Jewish, and Linda’s character replied, “I resent your assumption. Just because someone is critical and articulate and always hungry – fine, I’m Jewish.” At every performance, the audience would burst into laughter the second Linda said the word “critical”, and they wouldn’t stop. Luckily, Linda had a purse and some other props she could fiddle with, while she patiently waited for the laughter to subside. Of course, Linda’s talent alone might have been responsible for this clockwork tsunami. Linda Lavin is a playwright’s dream. But whatever was causing the laughter, I was happy to stand in the back of the theater and bask in it.
3. The very best thing about writing any sort of fiction is that you can have your characters say things, often hideously offensive things, which you would never dream of saying yourself, even if you’d secretly like to. Here’s the gift of fiction: you can blame your characters.
4. Sometimes it’s a good idea to write something that’s a complete departure from your usual style, or in blatant imitation of another author. Then throw it out.
5. Some wonderful writers can only work in public spaces, like libraries, parks or cafes. I can never do this, because if you slump on the floor of a library in your underwear with cupcake crumbs all over your unwashed t-shirt, you may be asked to leave.
6. As many other writers have noted, when you’re blocked, it’s a good idea to leave your home and go for a walk. It’s an even better idea to go for a walk and buy chocolate-covered cashews. We’re talking Pulitzer.