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J. J. Abram’s mystery box as metaphor for writing

In producer/director/writer J. J. Abrams’s Ted Talk below, he says his fascination with how things work and the mystery surrounding life were given to him by his grandfather.

When he was a boy, his grandfather took him to a magic store where Abrams bought a Tannen’s Mystery Magic Box. This many years later, the box has never been opened because he says it represents his grandfather to him and the infinite possibilities and hopes that his grandfather instilled in him.

Abrams believes that mystery is the catalyst to imagination. He gives the example of when he was working on the TV series “Lost.” He had 11.5 weeks to write the script, cast it, and shoot it.

Because of the short time period, he and his crew had no time to think about what the show couldn’t be. No time to think about what they couldn’t accomplish.

When I write fast and with a deadline, the same thing happens to me. During the first draft, the less time I have to think and ponder and talk myself out of a storyline, the better my story is. Sometimes, the hardest part of being writers is getting out of our own way. The key to writing an imaginative story is to get that first draft down quickly.

For Abrams, the blank page is like a mystery box. It can become anything.

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