Posts Tagged ‘Dalton Trumbo’

Driving down Main Street in Grand Junction, Colorado last week I didn’t expect to see a screenwriter sitting in a bathtub. But that’s what happened.

Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, The Brave One) was born in Montrose, Colorado and raised in nearby Grand Junction. He wrote for the school newspaper before graduating from Grand Junction High School in 1924. According to Wikipedia, ”Trumbo worked the night shift wrapping bread at a Los Angeles bakery, and attended the University of California, Los Angeles (1926) and the University of Southern California (1928–1930). During this time, he wrote movie reviews, 88 short stories, and six novels, all of which were rejected for publication.”

Right out of the gate there wasn’t much to indicate that by the 1940s he would be one of the most in demand and highest paid screenwriters in Hollywood. But he got some stories published in magazines, had his first novel (Eclipse) published in 1935, worked as a reader for Warner Bros., and earned his first film screenwriting credit in 1936. But at the peak of his success he was named with other screenwriters and others in the film industry as a Communist sympathizer. In 1947 he was brought by House Un-American Activities Committee to testify before congress. Dalton refused to give information and was held in contempt of Congress. This resulted i Trumbo serving 11 months time in federal penitentiary in Kentucky in 1950, and the Hollywood Ten being blackballed from the film industry.

Afterwards he moved his family to Mexico City, wrote scripts for B-movies for low-pay, but also wrote Hollywood movies under a pseudonym. He wasn’t recognized for writing some of his films until after his death in 1976. That’s the sweeping timeline of a screenwriter from definitely from an unlikely place.

I can think of no other screenwriter who rose so high, fell so low, had books and movies made about his life, and has statue of himself back in his hometown. But as someone from Grand Junction once told me, “Western slope people are different.” Look no further than Dalton Trumbo—a man known for writing screenplays in a bathtub—as proof of that statement. (Artist: J. Michael Wilson)

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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“It’s both surprising and fascinating to learn that people are more creative in the shower than they are at work….The relaxing, solitary and non-judgmental shower environment may afford creative thinking by allowing the mind to wander freely, and causing people to be more open to their inner stream of consciousness and daydreams.”
Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D.
Co-author, Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of Creative Mind Psycho

You’ve tried everything, right? Everything to improve your writing. Your creativity.

Well, maybe not EVERYTHING.

“I’ve got plenty of quirks. I go to an office early in the morning. Early in the morning is really good writing time. I take anywhere between six to eight showers a day. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not a germaphobe. It has nothing to do with germs. I’m writing, writing—it’s not going well. Writing, writing—it’s going badly. Take a shower. Put on different clothes and you’ll feel refueled and start again.”
Oscar & Emmy-winning writer Aaron Sorkin
Bloomberg interview with Emily Chang

So while sure concept,  conflict, interesting characters, that Mamet stuff on drama, and an insanely great ending are all important, give that six to eight showers a day a try.

Let me know how it goes.

P.S. If I recall correctly, in one of Julia Cameron’s book (The Artist’s Way or The Right to Write) she mentioned how water (either showers or swimming), walking, and driving all seemed to been means of improving the creative thought process. It not only works for Sorkin, because two time Oscar-winning screenwriter Quentin Tarantino talks about how swimming is part of his creative process (and how instead of spending money on drugs, he has a heated pool at his home). And two time Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was known to actually write screenplays while sitting in a bathtub.


P.P.S. “In the shower, with the hot water coming down, you’ve left the real world behind, and very frequently things open up for you. It’s the change of venue, the unblocking the attempt to force the ideas that’s crippling you when you’re trying to write.”
Four time Oscar-winning writer/director Woody Allen

Related post:
Professor Aaron Sorkin
Aaron Sorkin on Good vs. Great
Sorkin on Revealing Character 
‘Bird by Bird’

Scott W. Smith

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