06/02/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Sex and the City Taught Me About Writing


Now, I realize that Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is no Simone de Beauvoir, but the sight of her at her computer, doing the writer's jig that turns thoughts and experiences into words still gives me the chills. The very phrase, "I couldn't help but wonder," that signals the beginning of her musings on sexology, can propel me into convulsions of creative identification.

I came to rely on the formula of her posing the question, followed by what she finds out about herself, her friends, her world, as a result. That one little sentence, along with the image of her wispy body poised before her Mac, sometimes with a cocktail, sometimes a cig, has become one of my archetypal images of the working writer.

Unlike the promise of dolorous sentence scrawling offered by so many of the other far more pretentious and far more dead authors in whose image I have constructed my bardic fantasies, Carrie represents a modern view of a successful writer who seems to love what she does for a living.

I'm aware of the human tendency to frame what we enjoy according to how we want to see ourselves. It is this impulse that convinces avid porn watchers that they are really erotic sociologists; that teaches peeping toms to fancy themselves flaneurs; and prompts liars to perceive that they are merely gifted enough to see the world as it should be. In other words, I understand that I might be imbuing Candace Bushnell's brainchild with cerebral qualities that don't rightfully belong to it; but, accurate or not, it was a formative element in my understanding of the writing life.

Doggone it, I learned from Carrie. I watched her deal with creative rejection. Who can forget seeing her torn apart by Enid (her Anna Wintouresque editor at Vogue)? Sure, she has her other editor (Ron Rifkin) to get her drunk on one-too-many diurnal martinis and take her on a tour of the Vogue closet complete with a peek at his no-no, but she still has to confront that crushing feeling and adapt. I also watched her cope with writer's block, a scenario that culminated in the wordsmith's magic trick of manufacturing inspiration out of nothingness.

Most powerfully, however, there was the meta aspect. Hearing Carrie's voice throughout the show, narrating the bizarre situations in which the gals often find themselves, I realized that what I was listening to, my Virgil and Beatrice through the hells, purgatories and paradises of Sex in the City, was none other than Carrie's writing. This is when it hit me that what I thought was merely a superficial, albeit well written, TV show was also a sinfully entertaining examination of what it is to be a writer.