What Legomasters Teaches About The Writing Process

How this show only came to exist in 2020 I cannot say. It is a no-brainer. Take the actor/comedian Will Arnett, arm him with a thousand dad jokes, and pull together ten diverse teams of LEGO-building super nerds to out-construct each other over the course of a ten-week show. This is one show that didn’t need a pandemic. And all the better to watch it with my own 9-year-old LEGO fanatic.

Fortunately, the show also presented multiple lessons for the creative process. What good fortune for my productivity.

Begin With A Plan: Each team had multiple hours to build, culminating in a full 24-hour final build. In nearly every case, the teams planned out their builds ahead of time, discussing themes, components, and their strategy for completion. There are writers who seem to be able to write themselves out of any box, but unless you know you are one of those, develop a plan—even if it is just a beginning and an ending.

Build On A Structure: On bridge week, two LEGO masters teams built bridges that supported over 1,000 pounds—so much that to test any additional weight was deemed unsafe. Each of these teams built their bridge using the proper structure. A writer must similarly ensure that the structure supports the story. Thesis, organization, story, and/or plot are the skeleton on which the writer builds all the other elements.

Putting It Together: Yes, there will be Sondheim references here on Paper Bullets Of The Brain. Just get used to it.

Here we reference the builders’ ability to start with mini-builds, portioning out their builds and combining them to create the final structure. Not every composition or draft has to start at Chapter 1, at the introduction, or at the beginning of the story. If you find that your creativity flows from a certain middle section—or you know you have a great ending and want work backward from there—let your creative process flow rather than attempting to conform it.

Don’t Give Up: Sam and Jessica almost went home each of the first two weeks, and ended up playing into the final. They recognized their strengths, found a nice rhythm, and tapped a creative vein. First efforts are often just that. Consider this blog as further evidence.

Follow The Story: It didn’t take long for the show to become as much about the players as their buildings, particularly the finalists’ stories: the “gee whiz” LEGO-serial-killer mien of Professional LEGO nerd and John Mulaney-lookalike Tyler and his newlywed wife, Amy; the hetero-bromance of genial, bearded, not-quite-Portland hipsters-from-Portland Mark and Boone; and the work-in-progress partnership of quirky, artists’ colony escapees Sam and Jessica. If you didn’t care for the LEGOs, you could stay for the people. If you were there for the LEGOs, well, the people probably didn’t matter one way or the other.

Writers know how difficult it is to string together thousands of words to create a compelling and readable draft. It can’t be much different from sitting in front of a LEGO bucket and imagining the possibilities. Get building.

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