Anyone reading this article is probably looking to grow as a writer. Growth is one of the hardest things to do as a creative person, but most people who have ‘made it’ in this business will tell you it is a necessary and never-ending process. There’s no one Promised Land of Perfection where everything you write will be easy and flawless. The best any writer can do is work hard and keep learning.
So, let’s look at a few creative masters and see what they can tell us about writing. If we’re going to learn, why not look to the best?
No. 1 — “Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.” – Mark Twain
This Academy Award winning film by Alfonso Cuaron is based on his youth in Mexico, the director said. The story is poignant and beautiful, which is why it’s garnered so much critical acclaim. But how much truthis really in the film?
Cuaron blended his memories with his prodigious storytelling to give us something far more powerful than real life: he gives us emotional truth, and the result is a spectacular film.
Be careful with how much truth you offer the audience. There’s a difference between real life and reel life. Give us just enough truth to make us feel it all the way to our core.
No. 2 — “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about being heard.” – Allen Ginsberg
Matthew Weiner reportedly spent nine years shopping Mad Men around in Hollywood before he found a home for the television show. Truth be told, it’s not your run-of-the-mill concept. Doctor shows, lawyer shows—those always have a place in the line-up. But an offbeat, intellectually-challenging period drama? Not an easy sell.
The point is: it didn’t matter to Matthew Weiner if his idea was unusual. I’m sure one or two producers told him it’d never sell. But he stuck to it. Chances are, Weiner wasn’t thinking about being heard when he wrote it—he was thinking about what he wanted to say, and why, and how. What comes across is his voice, and the result, as we all know, is a spectacular show.
No. 3 — “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” – Robert Frost
There’s a reason Bohemian Rhapsody won a number of awards. It struck a cord in audiences, some of whom grew up listening to Queen. The movie shows us the beautiful underside of Freddie Mercury’s blazing career before it ended in untimely death.
Audiences responded to the movie because the filmmakers responded to the material. Their complete and total love for this band is obvious in every frame of the film—that’s what makes this special.
If your find yourself crying at the keyboard while you’re writing, that’s a good sign. If you love what you’re writing about and feel pain every time your protagonist takes another blow, that’s a good sign. It means your audience might feel the same way, too.
What is your favorite quote from a famous writer, and why do you love it? Sound off in the comments!