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.


  1. […] you know to whom I’m referring; they have issues with underwear.” – Hart Hanson, from his article at Why We […]

    Pingback by New to my Vocabulary: - oBscure pHenomena — January 14, 2008 @ 11:48 am | Reply

  2. “…or Crocs or botox or why people take some other people seriously when they so very, very obviously should not be taken seriously.”

    You’re a beat poet and you don’t know it. The average starting salary of a blimp pilot is $25,000/year, so I guess we writers have more in common with the drifting drunkards than we know.

    Comment by Lisa Angelo — January 14, 2008 @ 12:24 pm | Reply

  3. Well, you seem to know a lot to me– “Bones” is the cleverest procedural on television, imho.

    Very funny essay.

    Comment by LadyUranus — January 14, 2008 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  4. Mr. Hanson-
    It feels so good to know I’m being pandered to – can I sit next to Stephen Fry?

    I want to thank all of you – writers for TV and Film and game shows and all of it – we miss you.

    You say “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.” That’s why we watch and listen and retell the stories at work the next day – none of us know what anything means without stories to help us sort it out.

    Stay strong.


    Comment by Debbie — January 14, 2008 @ 8:39 pm | Reply

  5. Will someone please pay this guy so he can get back to trying to makes sense of the world for us? And by the way I know the answer to his croc dilemma. Crocs are simply a badge of courage. Those of us who wear the ugly things risk life, limb, dignity, and possibly friendships in order to walk on marshmallows all day long….and then some of us are just nurses. It’s okay, I still think HH is sexy.

    Comment by yoda — January 15, 2008 @ 10:27 am | Reply

  6. I enjoyed this essay. it’s good to know even very smart people don’t understand the world. then at least there is hope for the rest for us.

    maybe you could write an ep where the girl celebutards are the target of a killer? no, that’s too mean, right?

    Comment by okelay — January 16, 2008 @ 1:20 pm | Reply

  7. Oh I loved it 🙂 And I’m sorry it didnt work out with Mr. Fry being a regular… be as it may, Bones is still a great show 🙂

    Comment by bertas — January 20, 2008 @ 12:21 am | Reply

  8. >>For the *Fox* network.<<

    Great piece!

    Comment by Mark — January 29, 2008 @ 6:00 am | Reply

  9. […] Bones Creator and Executive Producer Hart Hanson, has answered the question Why We Write in an article posted on the blog by the same name. His response is incredible, I can’t even […]

    Pingback by Watching Bones » Blog Archive » Why Hart Hanson Writes — March 7, 2008 @ 9:16 am | Reply

  10. This writing is why Bones is the happiest of programmes. Precise observation, self deprecation and generosity of spirit. I have been without a television set for years because…well, does it really need articulating? But Bones gets better and better and is one of the few reasons for installing media software on my computer!

    Comment by stjude — March 22, 2008 @ 2:27 am | Reply

  11. The writing on Bones has a richness and unique voice on TV. Hart Hanson can subject his to his odd humor anytime and we’ll keep asking him to give us more.

    Comment by Evi — May 3, 2008 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

  12. Very honest, Mr. Hanson. I deeply admire your writing. So people out there. Keep moving those fingers! 🙂

    Comment by Caroline — August 15, 2009 @ 10:15 am | Reply

  13. Falling short of poetic, my initial impression was, “That was cool.”
    My favorite forms of writing are as follows: short story, novel, and lastly… very lastly…the essay. Perhaps I just don’t understand it. Most of the time when I read an essay dubbed as ‘genius’ I find it to be ‘boring’. This was not boring. It was fun and insightful.
    I love writing, myself. Sometimes I think about who makes a good writer and I have come to the conclusion that a good writer has multiple personalities and is among the very FEW people in the world who can separate them all out without being duct taped and thrown into an institution. Maybe that’s the true talent here. And the draw. You can be funny, stern, naive, shrewd, and totally psychotic all within that 8.5 x 11 inch square and nobody will think you’re mad. They’ll think you’re a brilliant.
    Of course… it also helps to be able to type like the wind. Just sayin’. 😉

    (AKA ‘ForensicMama’)

    Comment by Sarah — August 15, 2009 @ 10:54 am | Reply

  14. […] one day I read a post from Why We Write written by Hart Hanson, the creater of the Fox show Bones, who wrote: I write because I’m totally […]

    Pingback by The begining… « Uncharted Territory — August 19, 2009 @ 8:47 am | Reply

  15. […] with signature paradoxicality, 'it all becomes a lot easier.' " The "Why We Write" series over at WordPress lists writer after writer who, like Fry, find their work as difficult and sometimes dreary as the […]

    Pingback by Reading, 'Riting, and Reality: But it's HARD! — September 5, 2009 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

  16. This essay seemed to capture all the elements of writers, of how generally they don’t have a straight answer when asked “why” they write. And it makes us love them even more; their ability to turn something normally boring and uninteresting into something special, something crazy, something brilliant. The writing on Bones is some of the best on tv in my opinion, and I think this essay gives all of the answers as to why.
    Brilliant piece, Hart 🙂

    Comment by Taylor — August 3, 2010 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

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