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Writing Advice For Students From Pulitzer-Winner Tony Kushner [VIDEO]

March 24, 2015

"You're famous for last-minute, improvised, sometimes panic-filled approaches to finishing and staging plays," noted a Duke University student to playwright Tony Kushner. 

Kushner is best known for his 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Angels in America” about the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay for the film “Lincoln," which was directed by Steven Spielberg. Kushner was in Durham, NC recently to deliver the Crown Lecture in Ethics at Duke University.

"This is something students can empathize with," added the student, whose question was read to Kushner by a professor. "What would you say to students looking to create?"


"Don't use me as a model for anything," Kushner said with a chuckle. "The most important piece of knowledge for a writer to have is that writing is praxis, it's idea and action. You don't form the idea in your head and then take dictation."

Kushner added that the inability to write, known as "writer's block," is actually an intense fear that what you want to write is "not there yet."

"Because writing is, among other things, reading what you're writing and saying, 'Oh, why am I using this word six times in one paragraph? What am I trying to tell myself? What are the deeper structures in what I am writing down?'" he said.

  • Find out more about the Crown Lecture in Ethics here.
  • Watch the entire discussion with Kushner:


Tony Kushner at Sanford, Professor Phil Bennett in the back