I just got through watching a sixteen part “YouTube series” featuring clips of Rod Serling teaching a course at Ithaca College during the late 60s or early 70s. Gardner mentioned this to me during my first week at UMW more than three years ago, and I finally got around to watching it in its entirety. There are a ton of gems to be had, and it’s not too long given no one section is more than five minutes—and most are far shorter. If you’re interested, here’s part 1, and you can find the other fifteen easily with YouTube’s related videos feature.
I particularly fell in love with the following minute long section, “On time travel,” wherein Serling talks about time travel as a story device, but also, and more importantly, his own particular obsession to become young again, to return home again—despite what Thomas Wolfe admonishes. He acknowledges his own work is in many ways driven by the creative wellspring and slough of nostalgia. And, as Gardner always points out to me when we start down The Twilight Zone path, the single best episode of the single greatest TV show ever created might be one of the most powerful and painful indulgences of nostalgia ever captured on camera: “Walking Distance” (1959).
Beyond that, there is Serling’s discussion of feeling the horror of any given moment deeply while at the same time placing those emotions within the flesh, rather than on a soapbox. Simply great advice, characteristically phrased, from the master himself.
This last clip is a kind of challenge Serling puts forth that seems ever more resonant these days. He wonders why people refuse to push themselves to actualize an idea when it comes to the creative process. Inspirational stuff for anyone who thinks creativity may still have some life in its moribund carcass yet.
“I wish more good writer would put themselves to the test.”