Molly Ringwald on writing and advice she got from Bret Easton Ellis
Were there times where your inner editor sort of came into play and maybe you thought, "What if my mom reads this?" or "what if my kids reads this?"
No. I totally turn that off. I'm very much a believer in the shitty first draft. I have no problem. I can really just sit down and write whatever badly, which is hard for my husband because he's a writer and he has a very strong editorial background so his first drafts are more like third drafts. For me, it all just kind of comes out.....I didn't really worry at all until there were galleys, basically. It's all always a little nerve-wracking to give your work to people that you know and care about. But my mom really loved the book, so all that worry was for naught.
There's a Thelonious Monk documentary, Straight No Chaser, where his sax player basically talks about recording with Monk and how they usually got one or two takes of a song because Monk thought that's where all the passion was. I don't know if you could relate that to writing, like the first draft is where all the energy and passion is.
I actually think there's something to that. That's interesting that you would draw that parallel. I do think that a lot of the passion comes from that first draft, and that's one of the reasons why I really do not like to think about anything. It's also like acting, too, in that once you do all the prep for your character you kind of have to turn off that other part of the your brain, that editorial process or that part of your brain that says, "Oh, there's an audience there" or "There's a camera in front of you." You have to turn all that off and just kind of be.
And it's the same with musicians. In fact, there was a study that was done. I'm not sure where it was done, but I heard about it on NPR --- they actually hooked up jazz musicians to find out what happens in the brain when they're improvising. Have you heard of that?
Yeah, I think I did read about that on NPR.
It was really interesting. There's actually a part of the brain that kind of lights up and another part that kind of shuts down in order to improvise. Yeah, I do think that comes into writing. Definitely if you're editing too much while you're writing, I think you can lose some of that spark. But it really depends. People write in all different kinds of ways. This is what works for me.
I read where you were talking about John Hughes felt like his scripts got worse as he rewrote them.
That's what he said. He said that he really didn't like revising and didn't like rewrites and he felt like his work got progressively worse. From experience, from working with him, I definitely felt like the first draft of The Breakfast Club that I read was way better than the subsequent drafts. But fortunately he brought in all the rewrites and he brought back all that stuff that he had cut. He wrote really fast. He wrote Sixteen Candles over a weekend. That was just kind of like the way that his brain worked. He wrote a lot. He just banged stuff out.
Are there things you took away from your experience of working with him that you apply to your own writing or acting?
God, it was so long ago.... I definitely respect my past, but I definitely don't live in the past. I think what I just got most from him was that he was somebody who had always told me from a really young age that I had to write and direct. And was very certain that that's what I had to do. He kept telling me that. And it always kind of stuck in my head as something that I had to do. So, now I've done part of it and now I just have to do the other part.