Just Start Talking

Bob Byington on the exercise that got him writing again

Just Start Talking

Two things happened for me as a writer that got me over a hurdle – one was winning the Chron contest in 2005, I think it was, and the other was running across a writing exercise suggested by David Milch, who created Deadwood and did a lot of good writing on NYPD Blue back in the day.

He said to, with zero premeditation, start writing a dialogue between two characters. Don't think about it, just start. You don't know who they are, you just start with a line, like, "I'm not putting cheese on this breakfast taco." And then also responding as immediately and unconsciously: "OK, but please put salsa at least." And then the other voice responding: "You do know we're closed, right?" and then, "Yes, I do know, but the front door is unlocked." And you continue, Milch says, for 20-45 min. This isn't writing, it's exercise. Attempts to actually put the material you come up with into something you're working on will fail. I did it every day for a month in February and March of 2005 and emerged with a much different understanding of writing.

Bob Byington is the writer/director of such award-winning films as Harmony and Me and Registered Sex Offender. His latest film, Somebody Up There Likes Me, will be released theatrically by Tribeca Film on Feb. 22, 2013.

The Austin Chronicle is currently accepting submissions for its annual Short Story Contest. (Postmark deadline Dec. 10, 2012; more rules and regs here.) Check in here every day this week for more encouraging bits from published authors and past Short Story Contest winners.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest
"A Celebration of Writing, and Reading"
Louis Black's notes on the first Chronicle Short Story Contest

Robert Faires, June 14, 2017

Short Story Contest Update
Short Story Contest Update
Of the 410 total entries, we're down to 10

Monica Riese, Jan. 21, 2013

More by Bob Byington
My Obsession: Bob Byington Dials in to the <i>555</i>
My Obsession: Bob Byington Dials in to the 555
Austin filmmaker shares his love for new sketch comedy series

Feb. 17, 2017

Living Between What?
Living Between What?
Alex Munt spells it out

March 11, 2011


Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest, Short Story Contest, Bob Byington, Somebody Up There Likes Me, David Milch

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle