Writer’s Desk: Listen, But Do What You Want

All writers need advice. Working in the garret of their own imagination provides the raw material, but never going outside and finding out what somebody might think will generally lead to subpar results … or a self-published novel filled with spelling errors and plot holes.

But, since nothing is easy, all writers also need to know when not to listen. Mel Brooks is a perfect example of this, though he definitely erred on the side of not. When working on Blazing Saddles, Brooks got some notes from a producer about things to change:

He said, “You can’t punch a horse.” I said, “You’ll never see it again.” I kept saying, “You’re absolutely right. It’s out!” Then, when he left, I crumpled up all his notes, and I tossed it in the wastepaper basket. And John Calley, who was running [production at] Warner Bros. at the time, said, “Good filing.” That was the end of it. You say yes, and you never do it.

Brooks’ advice might not seem applicable to people not working with movie studios or very pushy editors:

Don’t fight them. Don’t waste your time struggling with them and trying to make sense to them. They’ll never understand.

But it is a strong reminder that no matter how many notes you might get (change this character, trim that dialogue, cut the opening), don’t loose track of your original idea. It’s yours, not theirs.

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