Tuesday, July 10, 2012 | By: HiDee

*Punch* the keys, for God's sake!

“Watch the movie – before you write another word, watch the movie,” a friend insisted as he handed me a video.  I glanced at it.  Finding Forrester sported a cover that read “In an ordinary place, he found the one person to make his life extraordinary.”  Below the words was a head-shot of an older, very serious-looking Sean Connery.  Behind him stood a young black man – basketball in hand.

What the heck did this have to do with writing?

As I watched, I found myself scribbling notes, rewinding at times to play something a second time.  It was an excellent movie.  Sean Connery plays William Forrester, a reclusive Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who wrote only one book.  Rob Brown plays Jamal Wallace, a talented 16-year-old basketball player with a secret passion for writing.  Forrester befriends and mentors Wallace, and in his own way, Wallace becomes a mentor for Forrester.

So what did I learn from Sean Connery aka William Forrester?

The purpose of a question is to obtain information that matters to us and no one else.
When we plot, or when we outline, it is necessary for us to know information that may never become a part of our books.  We ask questions of our characters so we know who they are, who they have been and who they will become.  We ask questions like “Why? What if?” because those questions reveal things we need to know for the creative process.  That doesn’t mean we have to reveal all to the reader.

The words we write for ourselves are so much better than the words we write for others.
Have you ever tried to write about something you weren’t interested in?  It’s difficult. We write because we feel passionate about something, and we inject our passion into our writing.  So if we write something we don’t feel passionate about, doesn’t it make sense for us to struggle to inject passion into that article or story?

Write your first draft with your heart.  Rewrite with your head.
We are all passionate about writing when we first start.  Unfortunately, some of us lose the passion as we create because we aren’t able to finish a project quickly.  It’s hard to maintain passion and rhythm amid the distractions of everyday life.  But why not try? Turn your mind loose on the page, let the creative juices flow!  So what if it doesn’t always make sense?  So what if you have glaring grammatical errors or blank lines you have to go back and fill in later?  The important thing is to get your ideas down on the page.  Capture the mood while you can and you’ll be off to a good start.  You can always patch up the holes and cut out the bad parts when you rewrite with your head.

The first key to writing is to not think.
This really is a good point.  How many times have we messed up a scene by “thinking” about it too much?  We edit and revise and edit and revise, and then we end up putting it back like it was when we started!  Just let the words flow.  Your goal is to write - editing is a tool to be used later.

Just typing gets you from page 1 to page 2.  When you begin to feel your own words, start typing them.
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  Pretend you are the author writing the book you’ve just read and loved.  Re-type it.  Just typing will draw you into the writing rhythm - you don’t have to think about it.  Just type. You’ll begin to feel what the characters are feeling.  You’ll become absorbed in the book.  Then suddenly you’ll realize you want to type something of your own.  Maybe you want to change the dialogue, or enhance a character or setting.  When you feel this urge, just do it.  Type your own words. 

The final lesson may well be the most important of all:

We walk away from our dreams not because we are afraid of failing, 
but because we are afraid of succeeding. 

The title of this post is a quote from the movie.  Parts of this post are excerpted from an article originally written for Romancing the Prairie, newsletter for Prairie Hearts RWA.


Meredith L. said...

Beautifully said! Especially "Write your first draft with your heart. Rewrite with your head."

I trashed almost my entire first draft because it was so poorly written. But: I got it out of my system. Once it was out I could really focus on the main plot, the subplots, and what actually made sense for the story I wanted to tell. The result was that my second version is actually a lot closer to the story I originally had in mind, than my first version - which went off on every tangent and detour I felt like at the time.

HiDee said...

Hi Meredith! It's not easy to trash our hard work, but sometimes being able to do just that makes our writing so much stronger. I'm glad you are happier with your second version. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Anonymous said...

HI this was a really interesting post because I was just saying something along these lines the other say. I just to write page after page in a notebook. Now I sometimes struggle to put words on the page. I think it is because I over think what I am writing.

Daryl Devore said...

This was one of the most interesting posts I read in a long time. Thank you.

Casea Major said...

I love that movie! It's one of my favs.

lisekimhorton said...

Thank you for reminding me both what a great film this was, as well as what wonderful advice it contained. I rank it right up there with DEAD POET'S SOCIETY as motivational and inspirational films for writers, about the power and beauty of words, and creativity.

Patricia said...

When I got a terrible case of writer's block, I didn't know what to do or who to turn to for advice. I called the woman who edits all my books and we threw around some ideas. I wrote a synopsis of sorts, knowing I could change anything at any time. I wasn't held to that synopsis, but it gave me something to think about when I finally sat down and "just started writing". Nice post.

HiDee said...

There are times when I definitely struggle to put words on a page, but for me, going back to pen and paper often works. This movie just reminds me that sometimes you have to go back to basics, back to enjoying the writing process. I haven't seen DEAD POETS SOCIETY but I will have to watch it now! Thank you all for reading my post and taking time to comment. I appreciate it!