Why We Write

January 7, 2008

Why We Write – Number 11: Bill Lawrence

  Number 11 

Today’s piece is written by Bill Lawrence, Creator of “Scrubs” and Co-Creator of “Spin City” and “Clone High.”  He finds himself boyishly handsome.  


When I was eight, I recall my dad, red-faced and neck veins bulging, screaming at my mom to “Speak only when spoken to, dammit!”  I knew I should probably abide by the same rule, lest I wanted to face the rage that jumped into his eyes whenever Mom dared to mention maybe slowing down on the scotch, especially if he was going to drive my sister to work later (all the while hating her for having a job when he did not).  So that was my home – cold, and shadowy, and so full of fear that it was blaringly quiet.  For me there was only one safe way to express myself: writing.

Now, in fairness to my dad, none of that is actually true.  I don’t have a sister, and my parents were/are lovely and supportive.  They remain crazy in love, walk the street holding hands, and probably even occasionally have sex (it is truly weird and disturbing).  The reason I told that badly constructed, melodramatic, fake story is to tell you this real one: I write because it is the only way to get paid for being full of shit.  The implication, of course, being that I, personally, am full of shit.  I am.  Seriously, ask any of my friends (acquaintances won’t cut it – most of them still find me truthful).  When I’m on the phone, the writers on my show play a game called “truth/lie/exaggeration,” categorizing each statement into its proper station.  It’s not a malicious thing, mind you.  It’s never to screw someone over or further my career.  It’s always about making the story better.

All the men in my mom’s family are large mouth bass fishing guides on the St. Johns river in rural Florida.  I do not enjoy fishing.  If you do, congrats – you’ve apparently found a way to enjoy sitting around all day doing nothing. Call me and explain it, I’ll finally be able to get close to my uncle and cousins.  It’s too late for me to bond with my grandfather.  He actually passed away out on the river.  In my head I always think that he knew something was physically wrong, maybe even felt pain in his chest, but he was unwilling to boat home because he had a good feeling about catching a ‘big ‘un’.  Now, my grandpa actually died at home in bed (of Parkinson’s, an annoying player in my life brought back by Mike Fox).  The point here is that I don’t like fishing, but man, I love fishing stories.  I watched my mom’s family tell them, hone them, add to them – it was a science that ended with a basically true tale that would be told over and over to any listener’s delight.  I officially became one of these storytellers when I was with my father’s family (much bigger fans of money and Connecticut than fish) and my uncle on that side told me what he thought was a charming anecdote.  When he finished, I said, “that was pretty good, but next time you tell it you should say it happened to you and not your friend.”  When he said “But it did happen to my friend,” no one had ever uttered something so irrelevant.  I knew how to make the story better.  I was two years old.

That’s what writing is to me – crafting a beautiful lie (beautiful, really?  Give me a break I’m being artsy).  It has to have some element of human emotional truth or whoever your audience is will turn the metaphorical channel.  Anyway, back to the original question.  Why do I write?  As an acknowledged bullshitter, I thought I’d start with some of the lies writers tell.  I don’t write because I couldn’t do anything else.  I’m a bright guy, I could hold down a number of jobs.  I could run a hat shop.  I don’t love writing.  Nobody does – it’s worse than fishing.  Anyone that tells you that he loves to write has either never written anything, or, is in fact, an alien.  Throw water in his face, if he is human he’ll get embarrassed and admit he’s never written.  If he’s an alien, the water will burn his skin and kill him like in the Mel Gibson movie SIGNS. 

Now the truths.  I write because as horrible as writing is, having written something is pure pleasure.  I like that my parents have something to talk to strangers about.  I like ending the previous sentence with a preposition because I’m an artist.  I write to get laid (that cliche about actresses only sexing up directors is just that, a cliche).  I write to find love (with this one actress I thought I was writing to get laid, now nine years later I have three kids and a wife who constantly tells me to hold the wheel at “ten and two” when I drive).  I write because I honestly couldn’t do anything else, and I love to write (that’s a callback from the previous paragraph).  I write because parentheticals actually arouse me (they do).  I write for money.  I write because it makes me feel cool even though I know I’m not.  I write for revenge on everyone that ever wronged me.  Tim Stenger, you know what I’m talking about.  I write  to heal (myself, not the world – I’m not a wizard).  I write because I’m lucky;  we all know how many elements of success are beyond our control.  I write because I secretly believe luck had nothing to do with it. I write because I’m arrogant, because I’m insecure, because I’m depressed, angry, joyous, drunk, bored…  But most of all, I write because I’m full of shit.


WHY WE WRITE is a series of essays by prominent – and not so prominent – TV and Film writers.  Conceived by Charlie Craig and Thania St. John, the campaign hopes to inspire and inform all writers.  If you’d like to comment, or tell us why you write, visit the Why We Write WordPress site or contact us at whywewrite@gmail.com.


  1. Tee hee (me too).

    Comment by Bon — January 7, 2008 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

  2. Terrific.

    Comment by daniel — January 7, 2008 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

  3. Oh, man. Scrubs is one of the series I miss the most. I couldn’t care less if you’re full of shit. Maybe that’s what makes Dr. Cox so much fun. Your shit, I mean.

    Comment by Dayse Dantas — January 8, 2008 @ 3:33 am | Reply

  4. I love it 🙂

    Comment by bertas — January 8, 2008 @ 1:33 pm | Reply

  5. […] Read the rest of Bill’s essay on Why We Write. […]

    Pingback by A Very Scrubs-y Week in Strike Viral Messages | ~ ramblings of a TV whore ~ — January 10, 2008 @ 6:38 am | Reply

  6. […] by Grant on January 10, 2008 From Bill Lawrence’s “Why I Write” essay: Why do I write? As an acknowledged bullshitter, I thought I’d start with some of the lies […]

    Pingback by Why They Write « Gifted Slacker — January 10, 2008 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

  7. Being full of shit and getting away with it is an art form you have mastered. I pray every day that Scrubs will be back to face it’s grand finale. Though I will be devasted when it does. Your bullshit is greatly missed.

    Comment by todwick — January 10, 2008 @ 7:57 pm | Reply

  8. thank you, you just inspired me to keep going 🙂

    Comment by anne — January 12, 2008 @ 7:04 pm | Reply

  9. we appreciate bill very much.

    but writing’s not the only way to get paid for being full of shit. case in point – technology evangelists, or anyone who ever says the word ‘functionality’.

    Comment by asshat — January 13, 2008 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

  10. I used to be full of shit…it was fun.

    Comment by Delbert — January 13, 2008 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

  11. […] Bill Lawrence (Scrubs): “The reason I told that badly constructed, melodramatic, fake story is to tell you this real one: I write because it is the only way to get paid for being full of shit.” […]

    Pingback by Why Writers Write — January 18, 2008 @ 5:02 pm | Reply

  12. oh wow.. this is good to know, cuz I thought I was the only one. being full of bull shit is a great reason to write I think…and I dunno about parenthesis but words in Italic turns me on…

    Comment by Insatiable Hee — March 17, 2008 @ 1:13 am | Reply

  13. Dear Bill Lawrence (Why We Write Number 11)

    Final clump (paragraph???) is the money.
    Delete the rest. (Brevity, soul of wit, and all that).

    Love ya, you verbose sack of shit.

    Comment by Mary — March 21, 2008 @ 10:59 am | Reply

  14. […] of my favorite pieces is by Bill Lawrence, the creator of Scrubs. “I don’t write because I couldn’t do anything else. I’m a […]

    Pingback by Shyzer v4.1 - Destination Unknown — April 28, 2008 @ 7:00 pm | Reply

  15. I’m a college kid with a dream of doing pretty much what you do now. I hope to script-write shows. But odds are, if my writing even gets me as far as Hollywood after several years of college, I’ll probably just be outside of some filming studio protesting with a picket sign. Damn you Bill Lawrence! You give me false hopes!

    Comment by Daniel Clark — June 8, 2008 @ 9:15 pm | Reply

  16. You’re full of shit, and your show is full of crap jokes. Stop polluting the airwaves with you stale, annoying show and let someone with talent take over.

    Comment by Tollen Carty — August 6, 2008 @ 10:09 pm | Reply

  17. I hope this is the right place for this comment!

    You may think that you are full of it Bill, or that your writing is -_- – but I have to tell you – after being diagnosed with an extremely rare disorder two years ago – like Parkinsons but much more intense – sometimes watching your show – was one of the only things that would pull me through all the incredible crap I had to and continue to have to put up with in a day – that is why I was very impressed how you handled really tough situations – like Parkinsons, like Cancer – like army vets with serious brain injuries- without giving in to easy answers – because real true life with conditions like that are almost impossible to live with – and your writing = dealt with that head on and did not try to sugar coat it – but brought out the humor in profoundly harsh conditions – and I for one – can never thank you – your staff and even all the actors and actressess for their very genuine and real thought and care that they put into either work – I was really blown away at close to reality your show really was – not just from the medical communities perspective but from the perspective of a person struggling with real life medical conditions –

    I am not quite sure what else to say – but thank you. Thank you for portraying a show – where doctors actually care about patients – and don’t give up on them – no matter what.

    I just wish real life was more that.

    Comment by Lisa Strong-Mosher — September 17, 2008 @ 11:18 am | Reply

  18. […] heard that Bill Lawrence has a “No Jerks” policy on Scrubs.  The theory is, no matter how good an asshole is at […]

    Pingback by Call Backs Complete; Plus, No Jerks « Matt’s Making a Movie! — March 20, 2009 @ 8:53 am | Reply

  19. You’re theory that you can turn bullshit into a ‘beautiful lie’ really inspires me. Great story!

    Comment by Kristen — April 6, 2009 @ 7:08 pm | Reply

  20. […] idea, and after searching online I found this real nice article on Why We Write by Bill Lawrence. Read Article. In the article Bill Lawrence says, “That’s what writing is to me – crafting a beautiful […]

    Pingback by Never Miss an Opportunity « The Works of Zach Keifer — April 17, 2009 @ 1:42 pm | Reply

  21. I am 72 years old and semi-illiterate. I’m an engineer. I have only recently discoved Scrubs and Bill Lawrence. Hilarious.

    Comment by joe cox — September 25, 2009 @ 8:56 pm | Reply

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