This past Sunday The Roomate and I did absolutely nothing. And it was awesome. We sat in the apartment and watched four movies while a blizzard turned everything outside our window white and frigid. I repeat…awesome.
Most people who know me know that I love movies. More broadly, I love stories. (Hence, the writing.) But for a few years I thought working in movies was the answer to that pesky little “what do you want to do when you group up” question. So I moved to LA after college and put in almost two years there-working on a few ABC Family-esque movies, suffering through the writer’s strike, and then stumbling into reality TV casting.** (This is a much longer story, best saved for The Future. For now, just know...Ashley hearts movies. Big.)
One of the movies we watched on Sunday was Love Actually. This movie rocks my socks on so many levels. We have Emma Thompson being her usual amazing self. Liam Neeson and the freaking cutest kid ever!*** The 'To me you are perfect' guy. And don’t get me started on the Hugh Grant dance. I die. (I think I'm getting all mushy in my old age. Not to worry, I'm still cynical about most things.)
But the most relevant and educational story line for us writers would be Colin Firth’s character, Jaime. He’s an author, he’s working on a first draft, he’s adorable.
(If you have not seen this movie, I’m going to need you to stop right now, go watch it, enjoy the amazing, then come back. We’ll wait.)
And now…I give to you, you wonderful people...****
Lessons from Writers in Movies.
(Mr. Darcy? *swoons*)
1. Find your own writing space
After his girlfriend cheats on him with his brother (poor Colin), our movie writer decides to pour his anguish into writing…in France. (Duh, where else would you go? Don't say Starbucks. You can think bigger than that.)
Now, most of us don’t happen to own quaint cottages in France. But the idea is the same. I can write anywhere, but sometimes (most of the time) I need to be in my own writing space. For me, it’s my desk. (Boring, I know.) It’s huge and beautiful and tucked away in a corner of my bedroom where I can close the door and ignore the outside world for a while. Of course, if any of you DO have a cottage in France, complete with lakeside gazebo, I’ll happily retreat there. I’ll even bring the wine.
2. Know your genre
When housekeeper/maker of tea/love of his life Aurelia asks***** what kind of book he’s writing, Colin doesn’t tell her that he’s writing a romantic young adult fantasy crime novel with dystopian elements. And you shouldn’t either. Pick one. Just one.
Also, making Psyco-like hand gestures (a la Colin) at the agent or friend your pitching, is probably frowned upon as well.
3. Back up your work (Colin, pay attention to this one.)
This is especially important when you’re writing on a typewriter. (Really, Colin. A typewriter?) But is just as important with your computer. (You know, the one that is sure to crash as soon as you type The End.) I don’t follow this advice as well as I should, but do as I say, not as I do.
Save that draft everywhere! (Email, disc, flash drive, hard drive, whatever.)
And if you are like Colin (and don’t you wish you were) do not, I repeat, DO NOT take the only copy of your first draft outside with you.
By the water.
With no rubberband. No paperclip. No folder.
For goodness’ sake, Colin. What. Were. You. Thinking.
And if you do decide to write outside. (This is not as nice when you're NOT in France.) And you do, for some looney tunes reason, take your loose-leaf, only-copy-in-the-world first draft out there with you. Do Not use your mug as a paperweight. What happens when you want to drink, Colin? It is windy in France.
(Also, wouldn't it be nice to have a writer assistant person to clean and cook for you while you work. Genius, Colin. Pure genius.)
If you don't know. Aurelia ends up moving the mug, the pages go flying, and then she strips down and jumps in the lake. Obviously.
(This scene, while amazing in all its eel-infested water gloriousness, makes me want to shake Colin Firth. Bad writer. Protect those words. And do not call it rubbish. Yes, I heard you say that. You may think it. We all do. But don’t say it out loud while that rubbish is flying towards the water! *headdesk*)
And that concludes today’s Lessons from Writers in Movies.
Thank you, Colin Firth, for the wonderful lessons. (And for being you.) (Also, I'm so excited for The King’s Speech…yay!)
What other lessons can we learn from Colin?
* That is, if you can forget the fact that they come before Monday. Stupid Mondays.
** Oh, the crazy!
*** “Worse than the total agony of being in love?” I mean, come on! Adorable.
**** Or just my mom. Who is wonderful, yes, but also probably the only one reading this. :) *****And by ask, I mean acts out with her hands. Since, you know, they don’t speak the same language. But they do speak the Language of Love! *sigh*