I was excited when Thomas Kaufman offered to do a guest blog here. I don't have the privilege of having guest bloggers often, and I look forward to reading his new book Drink the Tea.
Here is Thomas Kaufman's guest blog.
I love my day job. Now, some people write to escape their day jobs. I write because of my day job. Even though this job often forces me to take long airplane rides, and spend lots of evenings in hotel rooms.
No, I'm not a fugitive or a felon. I work as a cinematographer. I shoot TV shows for people like Barbara Kopple & Michael Moore. And I've filmed too-many-to-count programs for Discovery and National Geographic, BBC, WGBH, WNET…you get the idea.
The other thing about my day job is the kind of films I do – lots of commercial and some dramatic films, but more on the documentary side of things. And a lot of shows with cops, DEA agents, FBI agents. I have a great time with these men and women, and a lot of them are born story-tellers. Over the years I've written down some of these stories, and tried to use them in DRINK THE TEA.
My work lets me see life unfold through the viewfinder of a camera. So when I wrote the different scenes in DRINK THE TEA, I was doing my best to visualize them – how the people moved, their body language, what they were saying, what they weren't saying.
Last week my wife took me and the kids to an art gallery. We saw Renoir and Monet paintings. The impressionists believed in studying gestures, that certain poses and body language conveyed emotions and attitudes that were universal. I think about that kind of language when I visualize the scenes I'm writing.
Another type of language is spoken. I like to play music with my friends. So I think I have a pretty good ear. When I hear dialogue, I listen for the rhythms. Then I try to write that way. Folks don't speak in grammatical constructions. They talk in fragments. All the time. So I try to engage that part of me when I write dialogue. I try to hear it.
The last thing I'll tell you is where I write: anywhere but home.
Maybe it's all those years on the road, but I find it hard to do a first draft at home – too many distractions. But a coffee shop, sure. A doctor's waiting room? You bet. A Chuck E Cheese for a 9-year-old's birthday party? Even that is better than being in my own house, thanks just the same.
Oh, and pass the pepperoni.