Many episodes of Mike Birbiglia’s Working It Out podcast explore the craft of comedy in very specific ways that may or may not have relevance to writers working in other fields. However, creativity is creativity and a comic who cannot write is a comic who with a very short career arc.
On episode 50, where Birbiglia talks with his Don’t Think Twice costar Kate Micucci (also a comic, musician, and screenwriter) about different ways to approach their work, they delve into how to bring different disciplines into the mix. Micucci talks about how her training in music helps her view her writing in a particular way. Birbiglia uses the example of his Georgetown writing professor John Glavin, who advised him to take a drawing class:
It doesn’t matter if you’re good at drawing. It’s about understanding the concept of framing…
Taking yourself away from the words can sometimes help you see more clearly what the words are meant to convey.
Glavin, by the way, is a particularly beloved screenwriting teacher who taught his students that every script requires what he calls a “tear,” a moment after which (as former student Brit Marling describes) “the protagonist cannot return to the status quo.”
Step back from your piece. Plot the parameters. Identify the tear. Then, onward.