This final installation of movies for writers is brought to you by Missy Lacock, Insecure Writer Extraordinaire (at least this week). And I needed these motivational films just as much as the next poor writing sap.
First: It’s easy to NOT write—even for writers. And observing and thinking creatively is still not writing, people. Tools like these movies remind us we can’t improve or have a product to publish if we don’t actually produce it. Only writers are dumb enough to forget that.
Second: Like the editor-in-chief of this blog pointed out, writing’s the only activity with a “block” (there’s no such thing as “athlete’s block“); we need inspiration anywhere we can get it. Our jobs are to express something new, contribute something significant, but we need material and the creative fortitude to say anything at all.
And lastly: The life of a writer is a constant fluctuation between thinking we’re the best damn writers on earth and realizing we can’t even spell “attached” correctly. And since the craft is entirely subjective and—let’s be honest—doesn’t have any rules we can’t break, there’s no measurable validation we’re good at what we do. Not only that, but to write is to be rejected and edited, which means our egos are always taking a hit. That, my friends, is the life of a writer.
That is also why we need tools to remind us we’re not alone, that even the greats suffered insecurity and failure and rejection and writer’s block and lethargy, that what we do takes commitment and self-belief.
Synopsis: This movie follows two stories. 1) A writer researches orchids and writes a book. 2) A neurotic screenwriter struggles with insecurity as he adapts the orchid book for the big screen. And, uh, things get a little crazy for a movie about flowers.
Live vicariously: Land a screenwriting job for a major motion picture; use a typewriter; explore even a boring topic in interesting and eloquent prose; have our books optioned.
- “Screenwriting seminars are bullshit.”
- “There are no rules, Donald. And anybody who says there are…those teachers are dangerous if your goal is to do something new.”
- “The only idea more overused than serial killers is multiple personality [disorder].”
- “Because I’m pathetic. Because I have no idea how to write. Because I can’t make flowers fascinating. Because I suck.”
Themes: writerly neurosis, movie options, project obsession, writer’s block, insecurity, low self-esteem, writer-agent relations, and deadlines.
Synopsis: Written by and based on the experience of Cameron Crowe, this film follows a sixteen-year-old journalist who gets his break writing a cover story for the Rolling Stone. (Read the original article here.)
Live vicariously: Interview celebrities; flash press credentials; use a typewriter; live the dream on a wild tour bus; write a plum piece FOR THE FREAKIN’ ROLLING STONE.
- “So, you’re the kid who’s been sending me those articles from the school newspaper.”
- ” Rock journalist[s]…never get paid much, but you will get free records from the record company.”
- “You have to make your reputation on being honest and unmerciful.”
- “This little shit is the enemy—he writes what he sees. Although it would be cool to be on the cover.”
Themes: rock ‘n’ roll, journalism, interviews, writer-subject and writer-editor relations, mentorship, angles, insecurity, rejection, and Rolling Stone.
Synopsis: A playwright is drafted to write a Hollywood screenplay but suffers severe writer’s block with disastrous consequences. Fun fact: The Coen Brothers wrote this screenplay wrestling with their own writer’s block for Miller’s Crossing.
Live vicariously: Hear a crowd chant “Author” after the performance of one of our plays; be hired to write a screenplay for a major production company; use a typewriter.
- “The writer is king here at Capital Pictures.”
- “I’ve always found that writing comes from a great inner pain.”
- “Maybe I only had one idea in me: my play. Maybe once that was done, I was done being a writer.”
Themes: screenplays, high culture, writer’s block and distractions, the writing process, ghostwriting, and rejection.
Synopsis: Allen Ginsberg writes the poem “Howl,” which becomes a subject of an obscenity trial.
Live vicariously: Use a typewriter; contribute a game-changing poem to the literary cannon; participate in readings.
- “In the beginning, the fear for me was ‘What would my [parents] think of something that I would write?” (Me, too, Ginsberg! I enjoy a good, healthy “damn” once in a while.)
- “There’s no Beat Generation. Just a bunch of guys trying to get published.”
- “The trick is…to approach your muse as frankly as you would talk to yourself or to your friends.”
Themes: obscenity, censorship, publicity, artistic muses, experimentation, nonconformity, trailblazing literature, interpretation, literary value, and the Beat Generation.
Synopsis: Edgar Allen Poe is taunted by a serial killer inspired by his stories.
Live vicariously: Contribute to the literary cannon; publish reviews; be famous; recite our work; have fans; write with a quill.
- “Don’t you think if I could churn out another ‘Tell-Tale Heart’ or ‘Pit and the Pendulum’ I wouldn’t indenture my very soul to the devil?”
- “If I were to know my work would have such a morbid effect on people, I would have devoted more time to eroticism.”
- “I feel as if I’ve gone from author to character in one of my tales, as trapped and bedeviled as any of the hapless bastards I ever created.”
Themes: poetry, writing salaries, fame, eccentric writers, critics, reviews, newspapers, writer’s block, writer-editor relations, inspiration, workshops, fans, deadlines, serialization, and, yeah, Edgar Allan Poe.
Stranger Than Fiction
Synopsis: A man hears an author narrating his life and learns he is a character in her story. Meanwhile, the author suffers writer’s block about how to kill him.
Live vicariously: Write talented prose; anthropomorphize objects; develop unique characters and consistent motifs; have an eager publisher; use a typewriter; love our characters.
- “This is a story about a man named Harold Crick—and his wristwatch.”
- “I don’t know how to kill Harold Crick.”
- “Sitting in the rain won’t write books.”
“Well, that illustrates exactly how much you know about writing books.”
- “Like anything worth writing, it came inexplicable and without method.”
Themes: writer’s block, the writing process, character change, character attachment, and endings.
Missy loves the sun, road trips, and music and is terrible at chess. Her favorite book is We Need to Talk about Kevin—but there are a million in close second.