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James Lee Barrett Letter, 7 February 1970, Los Angeles, Ca.,to Miss Becky Stuart
Letter, 7 February 1970, from screenwriter James Lee Barrett (1929-1989), postmarked Los Angeles, Ca., to Miss Becky Stuart, a student at Winthrop College who grew up in the house next to his on Crayton Street in Anderson, responds to a letter written by Miss Stuart asking him to make suggestions for the person who wished to become a writer. "Acquire discipline. That is the first suggestion," he advises. "Discipline can best be acquired through unpopularity. If nobody wants to play with you, there is little else for you to do but read and write. And if you really make yourself unpopular, you will probably end up being a fine writer-with an immense disregard for society and respectability." He further suggests that the aspiring writer "get as much experience in as many different fields as he can and that he get to know as many different types of people as he can. Personally, I haven't much faith in ivory towers. I've learned a lot in a barnyard." The would-be writer should also "get accustomed to loneliness. Writing is the loneliest occupation there is." Regarding the type of things he preferred writing, he says-"I can't answer that because I am only the middle man between my characters and the paper they come to life on. I don't know from one second to the next what a character is going to say or do. I keep them within certain bounds because I know where they have to go. I like for my characters to entertain me. If the characters and their story entertain me, my ego is sufficient to allow me to believe they will entertain others as well." "If a writer is searching for perfection," he observes, "he cannot ever be completely satisfied with his work. I am never completely satisfied and never expect to be. It is painful to be aware of one's limitations-but nobody is without them."
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