The Writing Life, Illustrated with Monty Python Sketches

I was recently chatting with a friend about my favorite classic Monty Python sketches. This led to me spending time (i.e. procrastinating from grading papers or planning lessons) trolling YouTube for my favorite clips. And as I spent a few minutes (or more… maybe…) laughing, I realized that the sketches nearly perfectly describe aspects of my writing life. So here’s a tour through my brain and the wacky connections it can make…

Novel Writing

This whole adventure started with me telling my friend about the classic “Novel Writing” sketch in which the Pythons offer sports game-like commentary as Thomas Hardy (of Tess of the D’Urbervilles fame) starts writing his new novel. It’s a funny setup and it gets even funnier as they analyze exactly what Hardy is writing (and are ultimately disappointed by his output for the day…)

“Here comes Hardy, walking out toward his desk! He looks competent. He looks relaxed, very much in form…”

Use a Thesaurus Wisely

Sometimes you just need another word or phrase or way of saying that the parrot is dead. Here, John Cleese offers a master class in brainstorming the perfect synonym.

Alternate lesson #1: sometimes a dead parrot just needs a little push…

Alternate lesson #2: a slug is hardly a replacement for a parrot…

(Skip to around 2:30 for the speech.)

Any Hurdle Can Be Overcome

And don’t be afraid of the crazy knights who live in the forest. When they demand a shrubbery and you bring it to them, they still might say “Ni” to you. But you can walk away and do something else. Don’t let the knights rule your life.

Inspiration Can Strike At Any Time

Nobody expects it! And sometimes you have to work at it a little bit to get it just right…

Ignore the Choir of Critics

Who might try to convince you that what you’re writing is just a bunch of spam.

Alternate lesson: Sometimes you just have to deal with spam getting all up in your stuff. Don’t sweat it, you can edit it out later.

Writing Sex Scenes Can Be Silly

Know what I mean?

Do What You Want and Ignore Outside Demands

Well, maybe not if your audience is the pope, but even he may not know much about art. So stick to your guns and write what is in you to write!

P.S. This is my all-time favorite MP sketch!

And, No Matter What, Always Keep Smiling


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