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What Sex and the City Taught Me About Writing

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Now, I realize that Sex and the City's 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,” which signals the beginning of her musings on sexology, can propel me into convulsions of creative identification.

I came to rely on the formula of Carrie 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 flâneurs; and that 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 Darren Star’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 Wintour-esque editor at Vogue)? Sure, she has her other editor (Jon 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 coaxing 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 found 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 I realized that what I thought was merely a superficial, albeit well-written, TV show was also a sinfully entertaining examination of what it was to be a writer.

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About Caroline Hagood

  • This is a cute essay, Caroline. Reminds me how much I miss that Sex and the City series. It was very clever, at its core.

  • It was surprisingly clever in places. I wrote this because I know how vapid most people think it is; and it is in places, but there’s something I got out of it.

  • Yes, very enjoyable!

  • Joanne, I’m glad you enjoyed. I enjoyed your Reunioning post.

  • John Lake

    That most welcome article seems to be in a nitch by itself;
    kind of wedged in between familiar forms.
    Maybe some beverage might even help.
    I’m kidding.

  • A beverage always helps.
    I’m not kidding.
    Okay, I am.

  • Interesting…your article made me realize that even though I’m both an avid “Sex and the City” fan and a professional writer, I never particularly identified with Carrie as a colleague. But I did recognize that the series offered very good TV writing with that special blend of humor and wisdom. Maybe it was an age-difference thing (my being older and therefore not connecting with Carrie writer-to-writer). But I did/do, to my surprise, connect with those girls as a woman. For men who say they don’t understand women, and for women who don’t understand men and often, at times, themselves, “Sex and the City” was/is a creative meditation on identity and the battle of the sexes. And I’ll have to give that writer-identification matter some thought…

  • Sex and the City had its moments but the main thing I got from it was that a TV show can become successful despite having a totally lame lead “star”. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character was the least believable of the four by a long way, which I put down to the person playing the part.

  • Jeanne, I don’t think it’s that surprising that you have watched the show and not identified with Carrie as a fellow writer. I think Carrie represents a kind of commercial writing that a lot of people don’t associate themselves with. I think part of the reason that I did identify with her so much is because, unlike Christopher, I do find Carrie to be very endearing; but the main reason is that I started watching the show before I had become a professional writer, so Carrie’s ability to live off what I loved to do was very appealing.

  • Christopher, as I mentioned above, I do like Carrie’s character; but I think that if you were able to enjoy the show while finding her to be lame, then you’re absolutely right that that says something about the quality of the show.

  • Talitha

    I really like carrie’s character, more than the other three! although i also like the character Samantha.

    It’s a good essay, i really like to read about it. I really miss the show but i’m glad there where two movies made!

    So thanks for this

  • Thanks a lot. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • Jennifer

    Loved your essay! Honestly when I try to write, I do write behind my laptop with a cig and a glass of whine:)

  • Jennifer: it’s the way to go.