Saturday, December 08, 2007

Be Sure To Write.

Every so often, when I need a little inspiration and motivation to help me remember what it is I want to be when I grow up, I pop in my "Finding Forrester" DVD, and get lost in the story.

If you haven't seen it, it's about a kid from the Bronx who wants to be a writer. Doesn't sound like an entirely action-packed movie, huh? Well...there aren't any car chase scenes, and no helicopters crashing into skyscrapers, either.

But I'm usually more impressed with movies that explore the human condition and delve into personal relationships than I am with movies like, "Die Hard 17: Die, Already...Die!" (funny, there's no IMDB link for this title. yet.)

Jamal Wallace, the teenager from the Bronx, is played by newcomer Rob Brown, who forms an odd but compelling relationship with a reclusive literary legend in William Forrester, played by Sean Connery.

I get totally immersed watching these two interact, but that may be in part because of the nuggets of writing wisdom sprinkled throughout their conversations.

One day in Forrester's apartment, he ponders aloud: "Why is it the words we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words we write for others?"

He sits down with Jamal, the two facing each other, a manual typewriter in front of each of them, and says as he starts to type...

"Go ahead."

Jamal: "Go ahead and what?"

Forrester: "Write."

Jamal: "What are you doing?"

Forrester: "I'm writing, like you'll be, when you start punching those keys."


Forrester: "Is there a problem?"

Jamal: "No, I'm...just thinking."

Forrester: "No. No thinking, that comes later."

Then Forrester continues with his advice: "You write your first draft with your heart, and you rewrite with your head. The first key to writing write! Not to think."

For those of us who just finished a month of writing, we learned all about that first key, didn't we? No matter what, put ass in chair...and write.

If somehow, "Finding Forrester" has slipped past you unnoticed and you haven't seen it, this writer gives it high marks. I can usually take or leave Sean Connery, but he and Rob Brown are great. And the verbal head-butting scene between Jamal and one of his professors is worth the rental fee.

Early in their relationship, Jamal asks Forrester, "What's it feel like?"

"What?" asks Forrester.

"Writin' something the way you did."

"Perhaps you'll find out," he tells the boy.


"To be a writer, you have to first
stick your neck out and take a chance
and then be willing to make a fool of yourself
and give yourself away."
—Jessamyn West


  1. Thanks for the movie recommendation. I have a hot crush on Sean Connery. And thanks for the reminder not to think when I write. What a relief.

  2. The hardest lesson about writing. Turn off that screaming inner critic (hell with just turning him off, tell him to pack his damn bags and hit the highway) and let the material pour out.

    The real bravery in the craft is allowing yourself to write poorly. It's a matter of trusting that one person of dubious merits and inconsistant desires: yourself.

  3. Angela...It definitely qualifies as one of my most-watched movies.

    SBW...I hope you give me your review after you've seen it. I have a feeling you'll love it!!

    Jeff...All the writers say the same thing, but it's oh so hard to follow, isn't it? Natalie Goldberg (my idol) has among her rules, "feel free to write the worst junk in America." And Anne Lamott has a chapter in "Bird by Bird" called "Shitty First Drafts."

    Every time I go somewhere, I stuff my critic in the trunk and try to deposit him in a ditch miles and miles away. But then I come back home and sit down in this chair, and where is he? Right back on my fuckin' shoulder. He's very persistent.