Over the last couple days, we watched the lengthy PBS documentary about Woody Allen. I know a lot of my readers haven't been watching his movies and think of him only in terms of his sexual misdeeds. Exclude that topic for the comments on this new post. All that has been said. Noted. If you must say that again, go to the link above and put it in that comments thread. I want to say something new, based on the documentary, which is overwhelmingly about Allen's work. If you don't know his movies or don't want to talk about the ideas about writing that I'm going to raise, please don't comment in this new thread.
Woody Allen has directed a movie a year — almost precisely — every year since 1969. He's an astounding movie-making machine. It's really quite bizarre. He's a monument not so much to hard work, but to consistently cranking out work, much of it quite excellent. As a writer, he's a lot like a blogger. He just keeps going. It's what he does, quite aligned with living itself. I love that.
Now, it suddenly occurred to me that his achievement is propelled by 2 super-powers — one which he knew he had from his teenage years and another that he discovered through Diane Keaton. (I'll try to finds the specific lines in the documentary that support my theory and transcribe them for you, but I don't have time for that now).
Super-power #1: Automatically thinking of one-line jokes. It's harder for him to stop his thoughts from taking the form of jokes than to think of them (he says). As a teenager, he got a job making $20,000 a year writing jokes. He had to write 50 jokes a day. It wasn't difficult for him.
Super-power #2: As a man, taking the woman's perspective. We see this power burst forth in his fabulous movie "Annie Hall." Allen gives credit to Diane Keaton, whom he worked with in the earlier films "Sleeper" and "Love and Death," for getting him interested in taking on the feeling of being inside the woman's head and writing from there. In this position, he experienced a flow of ideas, that let him write wonderful scenes for actresses, like this one, from "Hannah and Her Sisters," which is used in the documentary as an illustration of his style of writing from the woman's perspective:
You can say that he doesn't really achieve the female perspective or that women aren't really quite like that, but that isn't the point. The point is that his sense of being inside a woman's head empowers him to produce writing that often works for the viewer, including many, many women who love and identify with scenes like that. He's a man, with male thoughts, projecting those thoughts into women's minds. What a powerful force that is, the male with something of his own that he wants to put inside the woman. It makes the urge to write like the sexual urge. That's creative flow. If you can put that force behind your writing... it's a super-power.