Hello readers and fellow writers, and welcome to Writer’s Quote Wednesday. Each week Colleen at Silver Threading invites bloggers to share their favorite quotes to motivate, encourage, and inspire one another to keep writing and working toward our goals. My contribution this week comes from the American playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner.
Anthony Robert “Tony” Kushner was born July 16, 1956, in Manhattan, New York. His mother, Sylvia, was a bassoonist, and William David Kushner, a clarinetist and conductor, both of whom were Jewish and descended from Russian/Polish immigrants.
Kushner spent much of his childhood in Louisiana and during High School was active in policy debate. He would move back to New York to attend Columbia University where he would receive a Bachelor of Arts degree. He would also attend the Tisch School of the Arts and graduate in 1984. During graduate school, he spent the summers of 1978-1981 directing both early original works, Masque of the Owls and Incidents and Occurrences During the Travels of the Tailor Max, and plays by Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest,) starring the children attending the Governor’s Program for Gifted Children (GPGC) in Lake Charles.
Kushner would later receive several honorary degrees.
Kushner’s best-known work is Angels in America (a play in two parts: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika), a seven-hour epic about the AIDS epidemic in Reagan-era New York, which was later adapted into an HBO miniseries for which Kushner wrote the screenplay. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this play.
In the early 2000s, Kushner began writing for film. His co-written screenplay Munich was produced and directed by Steven Spielberg in 2005. In April 2011 it was announced that he was working with Spielberg again, writing the screenplay for the 2012 film Lincoln. Both films were critically acclaimed and for his work Kushner was awarded the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2013.
In a 2015 interview, actress/producer Viola Davis revealed she had hired him to write an as yet untitled biopic about the life of Barbara Jordan that she planned to star in.
Kushner is famous for frequent revisions and years-long gestation of his plays.
Kushner and his spouse Mark Harris, an author and an editor of Entertainment Weekly, held a commitment ceremony in April 2003. It was the first same-sex commitment ceremony to be featured in the Vows column of The New York Times. In the summer of 2008, they were legally married at the city hall in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
INTERVIEWER: Do you tend to write very quickly and then revise, and revise, and revise?
KUSHNER: I tend to delay as long as I possibly can and get into a lot of trouble and get everyone upset. And then it comes out. I always write under panic. I seem to need that.
I am so ashamed to admit this but I think it is about time I come clean. I am a bad blogger. I don’t have an editorial calendar and I hardly know what I am going to write from day to day. I never plan ahead and most days I struggle to find time to write a post that can go up before noon.
It isn’t from lack of trying to be a good blogger. I have tried using Google Calendar, I have tried a planner, I have tried just a list of dates and topics, none of that stuck. I have tried writing posts in advance, but the words don’t flow well and my mind has trouble focusing. But when that post needs to be written now, my fingers fly across the keyboard. For example, I try to write poetry on my own but nothing ever comes of it, but when I was doing Three Line Thursday, when I had less than 24 hours to come up with something, the wheels in my head turned and clicked with ease. I posted three lines of poetry every time.
I know this is not the way things should be done but it somehow works for me. The posts that people seem to like the most here are the ones I wrote quickly. I do not say this to brag, trust me, I say it because I hope that through self-awareness and honesty I can start to correct this bad habit.
In the Paris Review interview I lifted this quote from, Kushner goes on to say how this habit has actually negatively affected his work. Procrastination affected the people he worked with from theaters to the big guy, Steven Spielberg himself. His advice to overcome it is to recognize that procrastination may be about fear and that it may also just be a part of who you are as a person. The trick is to do your best to write anyway. Just write anything and get the mind working in a different way.
The interesting thing for me is that procrastination, and the inevitable panic that comes after, is a part of every aspect of my life, not just writing. Projects at work, planning for the holidays, buying birthday gifts, paying the bills, cleaning the house for guests, all of these things and more are done in a panic just before the deadline. What keeps me doing it is that under that pressure I am often able to achieve much more in the clarity of panic then I could in the fog of abundant and leisurely time. The down-side is I am only able to accomplish things that have a deadline.
That is to say, I have zero time management skills and am clearly not a “self-starter”.
These are skills I need to have if I ever want to live the life I want and I think now is the best time to start developing them. I have no idea where to begin. I have no idea how to make myself work when I won’t. I just hope this self-improvement project won’t go the way that everything else does in my life.
Unaccomplished until a deadline shows up.
Featured image via Nate Steiner
Biographical information via Wikipedia