Inspiration for writers often comes in the form of classic books like Writing Down the Bones (1986) by Natalie Goldberg and Bird by Bird (1994) by Anne Lamott. Read them if you haven’t already. You are sure to enjoy them!
I recently found inspiration for writers in two sources unrelated to writing.
Comedians Who Inspire
The first is Jerry Seinfeld‘s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee available on Netflix. The title image for this blog is Miranda Sings next to her creator, comedian Colleen Ballinger, who happened to be the last interview I saw on Cars/Coffee.
Bottom image: Kevin Hart next to Seinfeld.
Cars/Coffee is as much about the creative process, often enacting the creative process, as it is about cars and coffee – and it is about cars and coffee.
Truth in titling: Seinfeld picks up a comedian in a vintage car selected precisely for the personality of that comedian, takes them out for coffee and they talk. I love all the comedians Seinfeld chooses.
A shortlist off the top of my head includes: Stephen Colbert, Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Kathleen Madigan, Louis Black, Jon Stewart, Steve Martin, Fred Armisen, and Cedric the Entertainer. The series started in 2012 and is still going.
Perhaps the most startling episode is with President Obama who Seinfeld included because of Obama’s comedic chops. Seinfeld pairs Obama with a very cool ice-blue 1963 Corvette. They drive around the White House driveway but can’t leave the premises so they have coffee in the basement of the WH.
At one point Obama asks Seinfeld if he’s still doing stand-up. Seinfeld replies, “Are you still giving political speeches?” Obama nods in appreciation of the point and then asks why Seinfeld never branched out of stand-up into acting, as other comedians have done. Seinfeld pauses a moment then says, “I fell in love with the form. It is joyful, difficult, and interesting.”
Bingo! I fell in love with the narrative form called romance. I find it joyful, difficult, and interesting, and I will always write it just as Seinfeld will always do stand-up. I found his statement in particularly inspiring.
Producers Who Inspire
The second inspiration for writers I found is The Defiant Ones (2017), a four-part HBO series also available on Amazon.
Like the comedians selected for Cars/Coffee, The Defiant Ones has all the heavy hitters from the pop music industry of the past forty-fifty years: rock ‘n roll, punk rock, hip-hop, rap, and gangsta rap: Bruce Springsteen , Tom Petty , Patti Smith , Stevie Nicks, Bono, Eminem, and Ice Cube, just to name a few.
I love hearing the stories of the dedication of the artists to their craft, their work ethic, the passion they have for the music they’re creating. Sure, they become financially successful, but the money is not what drives them.
Writers have a saying: “If you’re not afraid, you’re doing something wrong.” That is, if you’re not taking a risk in your story, you’re just writing same-old, same-old. In The Defiant Ones, I loved it when Jimmy Iovine realizes that fear is a tailwind instead of a headwind.
Wonderful words for any artist to hear!
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and The Defiant Ones document a certain comedic past and musical past, both of which live on.
What I liked about the last episode of the most recent season of Cars/Coffee, namely the one with Miranda Sings, is that it points to the future. This character was created expressly to be an untalented, egotistical and generally miserable human being – and became an unexpected YouTube sensation. Seinfeld heard about her from his teenage daughter. Here’s a video Ballinger posted in August 2017:
The video is not intended to be inspiring, and it is surely not. It is intended to be … something … maybe funny? Whatever its intention it’s had 1,918,516 views.
See also: All My Writing Blogs
For aspiring authors, read my complete guide for writing a book.
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen