Why We Write

January 14, 2008

Why We Write – Number 17: Hart Hanson

Number 17

Today’s piece is written by Hart Hanson, Creator and Executive Producer of “Bones.”


Obviously, I write because something in my psyche went horribly wrong.  You know what I’m talking about.  If I were a healthy, fully-integrated, functional human being I’d explore the ocean floor or build bridges or perform heart-transplants on blue babies.  So would you.

My number one job?  Blimp driver!  C’mon!  Drifting over big cool events waving down at throngs of the earth-bound?  Flying at about the same speed as a wobbly drunk crossing the street?  How sweet would that be?


If I ever give therapy a shot, my first question to my imaginary yet insightful therapist will be Hey! Why do I write?  Is it the cliche psychological desire to stand out from the crowd in a very large noisy family?  Or is it something less solipsistic along the lines of a dime-store philosophy which maintains that we are defined by whom we touch, how we touch them and in what numbers?


Or are we all simply the sum of our limitations?  I don’t build bridges because I’m afraid of heights?  I don’t pilot a blimp because I’m color blind?  I don’t perform heart-transplants on blue babies because blue baby hearts make me weep? 


I do know that writing is one of the three things in my life I’ve put a lot of sweat-equity into.  I don’t mean the la-de-dah moral compulsories like “be-a-good man-husband-son-brother-father-friend.”  I mean palpable, self-serving, pushful, venal pursuits.  For me, aside from writing, the other two such pursuits were music and science.  But something I can tell you categorically about musicians and physicists is that if you spend enough time amongst them you soon discover whether or not you are in their league – whether or not you share the weird magical rhythms of their thinking processes, whether you possess that extra Third-Eye which allows you to envision the building blocks of reality without your head imploding or the Third-Ear which not only hears the Lost Chord but instructs your fingers how to play it on a Fender Telecaster. 


For me there was no Third Eye or Third Ear, so ZAP!  Keep moving, nothing to see here.


Early on I was determined to spend my life in serious-minded literary writing.  As a result, I write a murder show for network television.  For the Fox network.


I don’t need my imaginary therapist to figure out that one — genuine artistes are willing to forego health, love, underarm hygiene, financial security, family, and fun-on-the-weekends to pursue their art and I was never booked to be that guy.  I want my wife to like me and I like clean teeth.  Besides, one of my first rejections from a literary magazine said, “We found much to admire in your piece, especially the punctuation.”




Read between the lines, pal.  Nobody ever praised Thomas Mann or Saul Bellow for their punctuation.  


Besides, genuine artists don’t pander to an audience and I always envision you out there … you and your friends along with an extra smattering of acerbic celebrities, historical figures, the Nobel Committee, Stephen Fry, my idiot cousin’s idiot husband, courtesans, my entire high school, and maybe Jimmy Page in the last row.


The truth is my main qualification for being a writer is that I am a whiz bang typist.  I burn up the keys, baby!  I will kick your ass typing.  I learned on a Remington unmarked manual typewriter so you sit me down in front of an ergonomic keyboard, well, I’m faster than all those girl celebutards I refuse to differentiate between but you know to whom I’m referring; they have issues with underwear.


But all of the above answers the question, “How I Came to Write” which is different from “Why I Write”.


I write because I’m totally confused by the world.  I never know what’s going on.  I absolutely never know what absolutely anything absolutely means.  I ask and the good-hearted, intelligent souls around me do their best to explain but I don’t get it.  I don’t get quiddity or science or religion or psychology or why we laugh when people fall down or why people come together or why we drift apart.  I don’t understand my friends or my enemies and I definitely don’t understand time or gravity or mob mentality or Crocs or botox or why people take some other people seriously when they so very, very obviously should not be taken seriously.


Writing is a way for me to organize the chaos around me. I can corral bits of the sloppy world into a clean white area measuring 8 ½ x 11 inches, where it is apprehensible.  Then actors and directors and the DP and the crew all explain it back to me on 35 millimeter opaque celluloid squares twenty four times per second  and sometimes — rarely, but sometimes — I go “Oh!” and I don’t wish I were a physicist or a great guitar player or a blimp pilot because for those few fleeting seconds, I understand some small facet of some small thing.


And that’s why I write.


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.

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