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April 07, 2009

Writing Phases

There are many phases to writing a television series. The one I am in right now is called the “Everything is Terrible” phase, in which everything I write I believe to be, or is in fact, terrible. Yesterday’s phase was “Is This Terrible?” in which I write something I believe to be good. Upon looking at it the next day, however, I find myself asking the following question: “Is This Terrible?” Because of the phase I am currently in, the answer is inevitably yes. Yes, it is terrible. Fortunately, these phases do not last long.

Tomorrow may very well return me to the “I Am A Genius” phase, in which I write a single joke which gives me the temporary illusion that I am a genius, much the way a snort of cocaine gives the user the temporary illusion he is a genius. (I’ve never tried cocaine but I’ve heard.((Double parenthetical: this is true. I have not, and will never, try cocaine.(((Triple parenthetical: unless it was really good shit.))))))

Writing is just plain hard. At least for me. I’ve read about people who feel as though the words just flow right through them, like chocolate milk through a crazy straw. But I am not one of those people. Even the words I am writing now are causing me tremendous agony. If you could see me, you would see that I am bleeding through my forehead, a direct result of my concentration in service to my blog, and thus, to you. As Will Ferrell said while portraying George W. Bush in his recent Broadway show, “You’re welcome.”

Yes, the work is challenging, the rewards few. But I am not a martyr. No, I am a conscript in the army of Art. A lonely soldier on culture’s battlefield, lobbing my joke-filled grenades towards a mirthless enemy, those grim-faced automatons who never met a fart joke they enjoyed. My purpose on this earth is to slay those people, either with my comedy, or with my anti-biotic resistant bacteria. 

So while I am currently trudging through my “Everything is Terrible,” this is just a minor skirmish in a much larger campaign. Tomorrow the battle will be joined again, and when the smoke clears I will still be standing. Or, as I was today, sprawled out on a couch in the lounge eating Wheat Thins. Because I love Wheat Thins.


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hello michael ian black. gonna share w/ you my favorite miranda july quote for when im feeling terrible/pointless/embarrassing (i have it taped by my desk):

"Just because something's uncomfortable doesn't mean it's wrong. And just because you have your doubts about what you're doing, or you don't trust yourself 100 percent, that's normal. There's this illusion that people who do stuff are totally confident, and I've never been. I've been riddled with doubt through the whole thing. You know, with a few flashes of maybe, MAYBE this will be great." [from an interview in ReadyMade Mag]

p.s. the best most hilarious things are often just an extreme, awesome version of terrible anyway


Flavored Wheat Thins are my favorite. Tomato Basil...stuff like that.

This HAS to be as false as my titties:

"Writing is just plain hard. At least for me".

Your "terrible" would blow away most comedians "personal best".

I remember watching you and Sho in a race to concoct stories within a 15 minute time frame. This was on a site that allowed the viewer to witness the creative process of a writer in real time. Sho, bless his heart, well, you know. He wasn't really rolling along. To be fair, he was still funny, but maybe just struggling with the time constraints. (I say that with love). Anyway, you were crazy creative, punching out a unique story line that was a freaky and stimulating pleasure to watch unfold.

Then again, what I *don't* know is, if during the creative process, you were wearing an expression of pure agony. (Not unlike John Mayer when he sings).

Christina (aka Melgarina)

Michael Ian Black, allow me to do some butt kissing for a moment, but I love everything you publish on this website. In fact, I think I can attribute your fantastic-ness to the starting of my own blog, [begin shameless plug] WhatsInYourManPurse.com [end shameless plug]

So yes, I've enlisted in your army of art, and will reap those few rewards that come with it.

Hey, back to your blog - I feel like having a blog is like growing up on a sitcom. I remember an interview with the girl from that show with Steve Urkel. Oh yeah, Family Matters. She said that she went through that awkward phase just like everyone else. Except her awkward phase was on TV. I think that's what it must be like to be a blogger. When you have an awkward/ugly/stupid/terrible phase, it's just out there for everyone to see. The show must go on.

Good luck getting back to the genius phase (while you're at it, check out that TED video by the lady who wrote that book Eat Pray Love about the origins of the word Genius. It's awesome!)

Oh, and why don't you do fellow blogger a favor and be her first very famous interview on her blog? It's about man purses, yo.


It's good to see that you can step back and look at the big picture, Mr. Black. Considering your place in the world can be therapeutic if not revitalizing. Knowing your process is perfecting your craft.

Congrajewfuckinglations. You're not totally void of rational thought!


Whoa. A word of caution: "Anonymous" at 2:13 AM has linked to a page on the Westboro Baptist site that is not suitable for humans to look at. I don't mean that in a cute way where it's just like a gross-out internet prank or something, either. The URL pretty much says it all.


Caramel Pig's Feet Wheat Thins are my favorite!


Hey, if you get paid to do something, then you're good at it. Well, that is unless you're a CEO with a golden parachute that gets paid even if the company fails, but I'm not sure that applies here. Wait, maybe it does. A CEO with a golden parachute is a good con-artist. Somehow he's convinced people to give him money whether he does the job well or not. You know, on second thought, you probably don't want to hear that. I'm not helping, am I?

Anne L.

'Michael and Michael say, "If you loved "The State," "Stella," "Wet Hot American Summer," one scene in the movie "Signs," and various Sierra Mist commercials, you may or may not love "Michael and Michael Have Issues.'

I'm sure I'll love it. MIB, your appearances on "Reno 911" have been their best episodes, your Twitter comments are hysterical, and you are way funnier than Theo.


After building up the single, double and then triple parenthetical you should have ended with six )))))). You forgot to account for the single and double; that closure is important.


For a second there, I got really jazzed because I thought you were talking about my favorite blog, Everything is Terrible. http://everythingisterrible.com/


Do you write alone? Or do you write with other writers?


I can't imagine the mind crushing pressure to write a show,but remember-you're good enough,smart enough and by golly, people like you!
(and now I'm imagining you delivering a joke with a hugely pained,constipated expression(ala John Mayer). Thanks,Reen!


I hope you reach the "I Am A Genius" phase very soon. As, in fact, you are a genius. I know that "Everything is Terrible" phase all too well, myself.

And now you've made me want Wheat Thins. Damn you.


I follow you on twitter so I feel that I can be straight with you Michael. No beatin' around this metaphorical bush.
This is you:
"Whaaaa... I'm Michael Ian Black and I think I'm terrible."

Look at all the sweet pansy-ass comments that have been concocted to stroke your ego and make you, super comical genius, feel better about yourself. You know whatever you end up doing is going to be Money. Somebody’s gotta give you a little tough love around here, not this encouragement crap. Sheesh. So stop cryin' and write those scenes so I can enjoy them with a healthy helping of honey caramel slathered pig’s feet and Cheese-its, that’s right I said it... Cheese-its...because they are infinitely better than Wheat Thins! If Cheese-its and Wheat Thins were hookers...Cheese-its would be a failed actress from the mid-west, "trying to make ends meet" by sipping appletinis at the Ritz Carlton with a handsy old Creepy McCreeperton and Wheat Thins would be a 40 year old tranny in an back alley gettin’ gang banged for a 20 spot.


haha, I write music and songs. and i go through this same phase. I write a song i think is amazing, but when i play it the next day for my band...i think its garabage. Haha. Anyway, is it true you lived in Hillsborough NJ? Because I've been living here for most my life, and just discovered this.

The Naked Redhead

I don't need to stroke your ego, either (though I'm told that I do the best ego stroking this side of the midwest...seriously, grown men weep) but I did want to agree with you.

Writing is fucking hard. This is not whining, it's a fact. People who say it flows right through them are liars, and what they usually mean is that they're good at puking words on a page. Great writing, though, takes clean-up, often hours and days worth of clean-up, because you don't want to say "small whole grain cracker" when you could say "Wheat Thin".

So, I get it. I mean, uh, you are a paragon of prose, sheik of syntax, god of grammar.


You are my cocaine Michael Ian Black, and you are really good shit.


Remember Michael, you know who to contact if you need an intern!

Bill Borders

Michael: I don't know who James Atlas is, but I like him. To wit:

"Writing is the worst part of being a writer."
--- James Atlas

Martin D. Fallswell, of Fallswell, Fallswell, and Bink

Criticism is a natural part of the writing process, but damn, if you let it interfere with the initial genesis (ok, speaking abstractly, folks) if you let it interfere with the genesis of your creative flux, as it were -- well, heck, y' gotta have a river before you can put a hydroelectric plant on it, right?

Not as if, not as if you were planning on industrializing your work, I just mean it as the best metaphor I can grab hold of, right now. I can play the lawyer part, but my son is an engineer. So it goes.

I say, to heck with the role-playing, though, it can interfere with communication.

Writing is hard, you say? Writing isn't hard if you've found your flow -- can this reader be so blunt in admitting?

I not do not presume to be therapist -- and I don't even play one, on TV -- nor would this reader presume to go too far, here, but I'm thinking to suggest: A retreat, or a camping trip, something to get away? Few days in the Adirondacks, some mountain cabin or something? a little group of whoever you feel like going there with -- maybe some friends, maybe some guys you collaborate with, on y'alls projects, maybe some beer and shotguns (suuure) hey and havin' some fun.

Hey, however you feel like (lawfully) doing, it does sound to me like you could use a break from the grind, brotha. That's my two cents, plain and simple.


I'll tell you what's terrible...you're mismatched parenthesis. The math major in me is twitching because you three more right parentheses at the end. If this was an Excel spreadsheet formula, you would SOOO get an error.


truly, you are inspirational & fuckable.


That's great to hear brilliant people think they suck... Gives me hope...I have thrown countless ideas away because of the i suck phase.


Felicia -- that was damned funny.

"Even the words I am writing now are causing me tremendous agony. If you could see me, you would see that I am bleeding through my forehead..." Michael, that was damned hilarious.

My two favorite quotes on writing:

1) "Easy reading is damned hard writing" -- Hawthorne (pretty much covers that shit.)

2) "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." --Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith (pretty much covers that shit x 2)

Good luck genius. Your war metaphors were beautiful :)


You're writing about MY life! Ooh - maybe I'm Michael Ian Black! Never mind - I know LOTS of drug dealers (and none are named Ricky).

Felicia - Hope this helps. )))

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