Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"The Wrestler" and Writing

I watched the Mickey Rourke movie The Wrestler the other night, and I thought it was great. In case you haven't seen it, Rourke plays an aging pro wrestler struggling with his health, his estranged daughter, and a solitary, poor life.

One of the reasons this movie really resonated with me was because I thought it was a moving illustration of the lengths artists and athletes to go to live a life that's more than ordinary. There are some people who just want more out of life, and in order to achieve it they're willing to forego time with friends and family spending hours huddled in front of a laptop, or, in the case of The Wrestler, wrestling in a bloody match featuring barbed wire and staple guns.

At the same time, "The Wrestler" wasn't exactly a glorification of Randy "The Ram's" life. He's broken, depressed, estranged from his daughter, and basically alone in life. He's devoted his life to an unsustainable dream - his body is failing him and he has nothing else to live for.

Ultimately I think the power of the movie comes from the sympathy his quest generates. Most people want something more out of life, and when that fails even despite almost insane efforts and doing every single thing possible, it's one of life's great tragedies. People still strive even when it becomes harmful.

Anyone else seen the movie? What do you think about it, and the sometimes simultaneously aspirational and destructive writing life?






116 comments:

RW said...

I think the self-destructiveness and writing can go hand in hand but rarely do. There's a lot of romantic myth out there about the self-destructive genius, and I think it's usually a lot of rationalization for poor choices. It's possible to write and to make healthy choices with one's life, and most of the so-called loner geniuses (and their cousins, the alcoholic geniuses) would have been better writers if they had made healthier choices.

Jason Crawford said...

Didn't see the movie, but I think I'll put it on our NetFlix list.

You're right, the pursuit of any dream can become a bad thing if it consumes one's life. But that's true whether you are successful or a failure.

I try to approach writing as the thing I do IN ADDITION to my other activities (time with fam, work, exercise etc...) rather than something to do INSTEAD of those things.

If I lose anything because of writing, it's sleep. :)

Jim King said...

I saw the movie several weeks ago with my son. Very moving.

As I watched him struggle to "reinvent" himself through a variety of non-wrestling jobs, I was thinking that in today's economy, a lot of writers need to reinvent themselves.

"The Ram" ran into problems because he couldn't see past the old ways of doing things. He lived too much in the past.

Writers have to reinvent themselves by considering ways this ever-changing media landscape can offer fulfilling ways to achieve our dreams for, as you put it, Nathan, "something more out of life."

Mira said...

Cool. Great topic, Nathan. Now, I'll have to go see that movie.

Usually, I believe writing is not only positive, but healing.

Writing - or any type of art, really - helps you clarify and develop your mind and soul. It brings you more in touch with your true self, and helps that self florish. It can allow you to transcend yourself - even if it's never read by another single person.

But I think there are three ways that writing can be destructive to the writer.

1) If it's used as an addiction to escape from life.

2) If the drive to publish makes you lose yourself.

3) If you begin to believe that writing defines who you are, and if you couldn't write, you would have no value as a human being.

RW said...

On the lighter side, the Cary Tennis advice column in Salon today had a letter from someone whose problem is that "My husband is too creative to work." I was afraid that my wife had written it.

Marilyn Peake said...

Your post today brought tears to my eyes. Haven’t seen the movie yet, although I plan to, but I definitely know what you mean about the lengths artists and athletes will go to live a life that's more than ordinary. I pushed myself really hard the past couple of weeks to complete a new sci fi novel- -writing 14 hours per day, through blinding migraines and complete exhaustion. I finished. My first reader told me it’s one of the best books he’s ever read, but it needs a different ending. I agree. I’m going to rewrite the last few chapters. But, then what? The long road to try to get it published. I can feel the fear sneaking into my mind that nothing will happen with this book, and I’ll have to pick myself up and start all over again. I hate those feelings, and I hate complete exhaustion ... but I accept that it’s all just part of being a writer.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, although I plan to.

But the topic is near and dear to me.

Art can be like a religious or spiritual calling. If you are truly called, you can't turn your back on it.

But trying to live in a world where you don't seem able to thrive with what you are most passionate about can be terribly disheartening.

Would you marry a person because they can support you who you do not love?

In a world where it is so very difficult and against "the odds" to thrive as an artist, it is no wonder that artists so often succumb to depression.

It is the dark side of creativity.

That's why skills for survival, a day job you at least "like," and those who support you are so important to an artist.

wickerman said...

Kewl! My new query will read:

Dear Nathan,


Accept me as your newest client for my 500,000 word epic fantasy or I shall go the way of the Ram and you shall forever be responsible for it.

No pressure of course.


The Wickerman

Michelle Moran said...

I thought the movie - and his performance - was Oscar worthy. Incredibly touching, for all of the reasons you mention. Having grown up in the the Hollywood community, I've seen far more actors than writers follow a similar path to his, and at some level, it's always a choice. A choice to put career over family, or a dream (however realistic) over tangible human relationships. It was always a shame to see, since many dreams can coincide with a happy personal life if balanced properly.

Mercy Loomis said...

Congratulations Marilyn on finishing your first draft!!!!

thin said...

Just watched it on Saturday. I was a little disappointed with the ending but I agree definitely that it was a great character portrait.

Both Randy and Cassidy sell themselves in the obvious way (wrestling / stripping) but with themselves they also sell away the important things, relationships, family, health, etc..

For the stardom or paycheck, they lock away their real self, just like their real names, Robin and Pam.

It makes any artist ask him/herself: when do you quit? I think we all need a healthy balance of career and family.

Dawn Maria said...

I confess to loving the romantic version of the tortured artist. I don't know why, it's not rational and certainly not something I aspire to.

For myself, I'm finding the journey to be the priority. Something in me had to make sure I really worked hard at trying to make this happen. I have a day job now that limits my writing time but finances residencies and conferences. As long as I'm moving forward toward goals, I feel successful.

At residencies I've come the closest to those dark, possibly destructive feelings. When it' just you and your work- no excuses, no distractions- you're really forced to face your own music. That's the risk or the joy or both.

Rick Daley said...

I haven't seen it yet, but I want to.

2 children + 1 soccer season = 0 movies

But on the other hand, my son's team is 4-0!

Other Lisa said...

Wow, great post.

I could write reams about this topic or nothing, since you've pretty much said it all.

I think the dark reality of the creative life is that you can do everything "right" - you can put your heart and soul into your work and produce something really good, and none of that guarantees success, recognition or reward. This is fundamentally in conflict with one of the basic American myths - several, really - that if you work hard enough you will succeed, that you will get what you deserve, that you can have it all.

With the infiltration of the culture of celebrity into our national character, now you have the divorcing of talent and effort from perceived entitlement, which is a whole other sort of tragedy, and actually something which I think has made creative success based on merit even more difficult.

I don't know what you do about these truths, other than to look for balance in your life. But I'd be lying if I said I've always managed it in mine.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

The film was spectacular, I saw it in the cinema while visiting DC. I think I'm pretty lucky when I compare myself with Randy "The Jam" because I'm young and I have a job. So far, I haven't found myself in a shitty, desperate situation-- yet. and I hope to never fall into that trap.

I think his character is a very relatable human being-- almost everyone knows someone like him.

Travis Erwin said...

I'm expecting it today via Netflix.

Mira said...

Marilyn - congratulations!!!

That's wonderful. I'm sorry it was so hard on you. But now it's time to play and rest for awhile, and take care of you! You did it!

:-)

Rebecca Knight said...

Oh, man. That movie was absolutely wonderful, and at the same time one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

I recently read some people over at QueryTracker.net discussing how we need to focus more on the journey and love of writing, instead of the "goal" (getting published, becoming George R. R. Martin's lady counterpart, etc).

Sometimes I'm so driven that I find myself getting caught up in the "next step" to get to my goal, and forget to take a deep breath and be satisfied with where I am. I think that's the dangerous part of being ambitious--letting the "what's the next step" mentality get in the way of being content and enjoying writing for the sake of writing. I feel very blessed to have finished my first novel and be working on a second, and it's nice to stop and realize that I'm happy and very, very blessed. Even though I'm not published yet ;).

Great post!

scott neumyer said...

Couldn't agree more. My favorite film of 2008.

Roland said...

I loved the Wrestler. Rourke really is outstanding in it, and I'm one of those guys that poos on everything that's hyped.

My only criticism of it was the relationship with his daughter. I didn't really believe it. Why does she let him back into her life? What does she have to gain now that she's an adult? Was she really surprised and therefore hurt by his being late for their dinner date? I would have been (and was)impressed that he showed up at all. What happened to them when she was younger? Isn't she overreacting a tad when he's late? It felt really forced.

I'd have made her more detached, treating him like a stranger. He's not capable of hurting her anymore because she doesn't have feelings for him. She doesn't know him. Instead the relationship between them was muddled by an unfinished picture of her and her overreaction felt like overacting.

Myra said...

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)
I’ve lived long enough to know that my mental health and my relationship with my family must be my priority. Writing feeds something elemental in me – and I am sooooo grateful for the gift of words. I hoped I’d finish my story. I did. I hoped someone would like it. Someone did. I hoped I’d get to write another. I am. I hope it gets agented, published, optioned, etc.
But when the hope quits, I have to quit too.
That’s why I can’t watch movies like The Wrestler. I *absorb* story. I like hopeful ones!

Martin McClellan said...

The Creative Screenwriting Podcast has a very good interview with the screenwriter Robert D. Siegel. it's interesting to note that his previous job was as a writer for The Onion.

Here's a direct link to the podcast [warning: iTunes link]

Haste yee back ;-) said...

All you down-n-the-mouth writers, PERK the hell up! Head on over to HarperStudio's blog and catch, The Expresso Book Machine.

PrestO-changeO, push a button, pull a tab, there, you're published!

(If you're not "in it" for money, acclaim, prestige, applause, to be envied or get better restaurant seats, be fawned over, to enjoy the fantasy - in your mind only - that everyone thinks you're a genius, or deluded into feeling the world is at your feet... IMHO, your work is DONE)!

Those who've been called and guided by cleansed spirit and pure of heart motives, you have been delivered! Amen.

For the rest of us hacks, it's a$$holes and elbows... again, still!

Haste yee back ;-)

Bane of Anubis said...

I think I'm one of the few who don't have sympathy (or not as much as probably desired) for these type of characters.

Perhaps it's an age perspective (though I've had my share of failure and struggle).

Aiming for the stars is fantastic, but at some point, most of us have to realize we won't be astronauts.

WV: mistic - a southern mistake (as in my approach to this :)

Kristi said...

I didn't see the movie but it's on my Netflix list along with 100 other movies I haven't had time to see yet.

In psychology, something is not considered destructive, or pathological, unless it significantly interferes with social or occupational functioning. I don't believe writing is inherently more destructive than any other activity - but of course, some people are drawn to writing that would fit that definition with or without engaging in writing. Most of us are not the stereotypical hermits who ignore friends and family - heck, they give me such great material for my writing! :)

Natalie N. said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I've heard really good things about it.

I think that writing is like everything else. It's a job. You either work to live, or live to work and it doesn't really matter what field you're in. I work at a law firm (while I wait to be discovered for writing) and there are a bunch of attorneys that work 60+ hours a week just because they love to work. Personally, I have a life and a baby to attend to and when I make it big (because I will), I'm not going to sacrifice sanity for fame.

At least, that's the plan for now. :)

Marilyn Peake said...

I agree with everyone who's posted about the importance of keeping balance in one's life, even though writers/artists tend to get swept up in working really long hours during certain stages of a project. I’m thinking about taking off the entire summer and returning to editing my novel in the fall. Seems like a huge shame when artists let their dreams ruin their lives, since that basically defeats the idea of a dream life. I think there’s a huge difference between using art to fill an empty void in one’s life and the demand that art itself places on an artist to keep their brain wrapped around an idea until the project’s completed. Really interesting topic for discussion! Think I’ll watch "The Wrestler" soon.

Thanks for your kind words, Mercy Loomis and Mira!

Mira said...

I believe in multiple lifetimes, which is helpful in circumstances like this.

I think it may take more than one lifetime - maybe several - to really become the best possible writer you can be.

Maybe the answer in this lifetime is......not yet.

Mira said...

Oh.

Shoot. This is the type of topic I could talk about for hours. I'll try not to post too often.

But one more thing.

Failure can be transformative. Unbelievably valuable lessons can be learned from failure.

Trust, acceptance, perspective, compassion, and kindness.

Failure, which is a type of grief, can bring equanimity and self-acceptance. It can help your heart grow. All grief does. It can also lead to stronger and deeper hope, inspiration and dedication.

All of which can be channeled back into your writing.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

I think the key is to balance ambition with personal responsibility and dreams with realism. It’s just not fair to expect your spouse and kids to suffer for the sake of your art; these are people you willingly brought into your life. Let's not confuse drive with selfishness.

Concerning dreams and reality, you know, one word I never hear in my writers’ group, at conferences, or in agent blogs is “talent.” How about a post on that sometime, Nathan?

Dearth of Reason said...

How cool is this, pondering the nature of art and aspirations! Sweet!

There's a bell curve behind this intriguing subject.

You can live on the hump with many others.

A life less ordinary requires you to traverse those places not commonly explored.

A life extraordinary requires skills, passion, and a willingness, perhaps even a compulsion, to venture beyond the accepted, the assumed universal boundaries, and transcend.

The tragedy comes when your talent and drive position you on one place on that bell curve, but you choose another. It works in either direction.

However, if you are in balance with your position, I believe you have a shot at happiness. The trick is, as they say, wanting what you've got.

I haven't quite mastered that trick. I still want to be Bono. Too bad I can't sing.

Mercy Loomis said...

My husband and I have a rule that we started when we first started playing MMORPGs, and which we now apply to many aspects of our lives.

Real Life Always Comes First.

Want to go on a raid, but friends want to go see a movie? RLACF.

Want to work on your novel, but your husband feels neglected? RLACF.

Want to slack off, but you haven't done your writing quota for the day? RLACF.

It's the definition of real life that changes. :) And for us the priority scale goes like this: our marriage (would be "our family" if we had kids), dear friends, making a living, other life goals, chores, hobbies, acquaintances, slack time.

Helps keep things in perspective.

Rachel said...

I agree with Bane of Anubis. I haven't seen the movie specifically because of the type of character it portrays. No offense to anyone who liked the movie, I just can't get worked up about someone who seems super self-destructive. As for writing, I love to write but I make sure it doesn't interfere with the rest of my life. If it ever does, I back off and focus on my friends, my family, my other interests.

PurpleClover said...

"What do you think about it, and the simultaneously aspirational and destructive writing life?"Wow, was that supposed to be a pep-talk?? How depressing!

sigh.

Anonymous said...

There is a saying: "In everything the key is moderation." Yes, I believe if we did everything in the middle- at the moderate point we can live a long (albeit perhaps boring) life.

But does moderation make brilliance? Or a great athlete? Or great anything?

I would say no. The extreme does. We have all read success stories of those that sacrificed everything to attain their goal. They became the best at whatever they do because they pushed to the limit- the extreme. Just my opinion.

Oh, and The Wrestler is in my Netflix queue

Nathan, I think if you ever wanted to try another career I think you’d be great as a movie reviewer too!

Lois Lavrisa

HeygateLive said...

Great posting, and it says a lot about the writing life - except one thing. Writing in itself can be very healing. Despite all the drawbacks - isolation, depression, poverty, complicated personal relationships - the act, like the performance of an athlete - can be intensely redeeming.

I mean, why the hell else would you put up with everything that goes with it?

Marilyn Peake said...

Mira said:
"I think it may take more than one lifetime - maybe several - to really become the best possible writer you can be."

In doing research on time travel for my sci fi novel, I discovered the Many-Worlds Theory of Quantum Mechanics, and read some fascinating books about it. According to that theory, all possible worlds we can imagine already exist, and scientists will eventually figure out how we can travel among them. So, you see, in some worlds, we’re already famous writers ... We just need a time travel machine to experience the reality! :)

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Lois, that's a great point about moderation not producing greatness--I totally agree. What's sad is when people go marching down a path without stopping to assess their talents, or worse, they don't bother to hone their skills. I can't tell you how many writers I've met who expect to hit it big--really big--but who have no realistic idea of their capabilities.

Silicon Valley Diva said...

Sure, I bet there are some artists or writers out there that give up everything else in life. Whether they make it or not, I feel deep pity for them. If their entire life is writing, than that must be an empty life indeed.
As much as I live and breathe to be a writer, I'm not willing to sacrifice my family. They will always come first.
Neglecting everything else in life to fulfill some dream is not just unique to the writing profession, however. I haven known people in the business world who have become estranged from their families, all because the end goal of attaining a huge fortune was ALL they wanted in life.

Anonymous said...

Help, someone hacked into my Netflix account and the only movie on my queue is Mall Cop, over and over! I can't watch it anymore but it keeps coming...

Mira said...

Marilyn,

Lol. But no, I think this world is the one in which we become famous authors. At least you, anyway. :-)

It's the other worlds where we know how to fly and can move objects with our minds.

Anonymous said...

If you have to try that hard, you ain't that good. Face it. Some people can just do it with a lot less work than you.

CNU said...

Not all self destructive people are writers and not all writers are self destructive. Sometimes there's overlap, but this stems more from the ability to articulate emotion, which seems most palpable when it's misery or bliss. No one wants to write about how 'great' mediocrity is.

This is especially true if one is writing about Tragedies, which are meant to give catharsis to the audience through the outpouring of emotion for the afflicted. We're all guilty of this vicarious pleasure at some point or another. (* The song "Vicarious" by the rock band, "Tool" speaks of this phenomenon. *)

It's similar to trite consolations to the third world. When people act it's charity.

When people talk about it- it's narcissism.

My personal view is that life itself is suffering, thus to hide from it is pointless. You might as well try to hide from sunlight. Learn, grow, experience. Love the pain for what it is- a strict teacher that will illuminate the pleasurable moments.

Good topic.

Peace,

-C

PurpleClover said...

Okay so I have to agree with Bane of Anubis.

In all honestly this post hits too close to home with certain aspects (and certain family members). I think it's selfish. These people are driven by greed and maybe they aren't totally home upstairs which may be their only saving grace. But anyone that is willing to throw away relationships and be that self-absorbed deserves the ending they get.

I haven't seen the film so I have to base my opinion on your post. But I think people need limits. Maybe someone can struggle their entire life and finally meet their goal at the very end but then what? Who will you share that with?

For those that don't subscribe to a belief in a higher power, that ending may be okay. But for me, I do, and I don't want to be judged with those choices on my record.

I'm not saying you have to give up your dreams or beliefs, but I think you should limit the efforts and lengths you go to in order to follow them.

Jen C said...

For me, writing isn't at all self-destructive. Perhaps it's because I'm a single gal with no family and no commitments other than what I set for myself. I think the negativity that other people experience is down to guilt, but for me there is no guilt associated with spending hours in front of the computer writing. Or on Twitter. Or blogging. Or on You Tube. Or looking up funny cat pictures.

I don't know. There always just seems to be more than enough hours in the day.

Other Lisa said...

Hmmm...why is it that I suddenly want to recite lyrics from "The Gambler"? :)

Anonymous said...

Wow. I've thought about this a lot and struggled with it:

there are some people who just want more out of life, and in order to achieve it they're willing to forgo time with friends and family spending hours huddled in front of a laptop...

I'm a mom. My kids are 14 and 10. When your kids are this age, you know, there will be a time--not too long from now--when they'll be GONE. This is in the back of my mind, always. What. Is. Important. They are. And they always win. I'm not going to sacrifice this one shot I have with them, to wander off too far into 'my needs'. I'm not saying I do not go for things-- I have a novel, an agent, I'm revising-- but my LIFE is with them. It makes me sad (and guilty) when I hear of other writers blowing off their families for the sake of their "art." I hope to never be like that. There is time for everything. Or, I'll have more time later. I don't want to have any regrets.

Chuck H. said...

Some one once said "Life is what happens while you are making other plans". That's me. I had planned to be a famous journalist but they were trying to draft me so I enlisted and stayed for 20 years, picking up a family along the way and writing when I could. I wouldn't trade what I have for anything but sometimes I wonder what if?

Haven't seen the movie but understand the character. Maybe I'll see it when the kids or grandkids or great grandkids aren't around to distract or I don't feel like working on my second (unpublished) novel.

Robert A Meacham said...

I guess I am neither genius or driven to the point of obsession. Sure, I want to be published and in print with 5 million books. That would be nice. I am a simple man wanting only to be recognized by family that I am, or was after death ,a loving father and husband.
Let me put it this way; If i was on Deal or No Deal and the bank's offer was a publishing contract, I would turn it down for sure money and then I would give it away for future grandchildren.

The Writers Canvas said...

I loved the movie; saw it on opening day. I think that type of persona depends on the person and the various factors added in.

Look at many talented actors who have gone to tremendous depths in their soul to portray a character and it affects them. Mickey Rourke is one example, as he's said in interviews that this film is his life in acting. Mickey Rourke made the wrong choices, ticked off the wrong people, and wound up on the outskirts, trying to get back in.

While I definitely think artists of any kind (writers, actors, etc.) can feel/perceive more than the average human being walking around, it's to their advantage to clear their heads and minds so they are the least cluttered--this allows them to be free. And in being free, they are free to invent, create, and soar with the gods.

Elaine

Dawn said...

I haven't seen the film. I don't actively seek out films that I suspect won't leave me feeling happy or uplifted. So "The Wrestler" will probably not make my list. I'm a wimp that way.
As far as writing at the expense of my other relationships, I can't. I'm on disability, living with my parents and there's no where for me to go except into my writing. I do it because I need it.

Jen C said...

Regarding wanting more from life, I don't think I want more, I have always just expected it. The story of my life already goes way against the grain, and I plan on continuing that!

I love to write, and I will always write, but if it doesn't work out in the publishing sense, I'll find something else. (I'm always about 2 heartbeats away from running off and joining the circus!).

Lucinda said...

“What do you think about it, and the sometimes simultaneously aspirational and destructive writing life?”Great question, Nathan.

After reading your take on the movie and the many responses to it, there remains a feeling of rationale in the air.

(I have not seen the movie, and I probably won’t because I don’t watch...)

Until and unless someone has walked a mile in his shoes, they cannot fathom the emotions behind such passion.

The driving passion you described is as powerful and addictive as any drug or alcohol. My father died of alcoholism. He tried many times to beat it, but the dragon beat him at the age of 52.

Many times the power that moves the pen is deeply rooted in abuse of one form or another. The detaching of an artist away from “real life” often begins a long time before the pen ever hits the paper.

Even so, such a writer can live an active life, at least on the outside. For what is considered normal (family, job, etc), a writer can function quite well. But, the inner turmoil, the torment, the struggle and the nightmares do not cease. There is peace in writing because it feels like control. To stop writing feels like giving up on life.

Thank you once again, Nathan, for a thought-provoking topic and for revealing your humanness even though you are...an...agent.

Ps...I enjoyed reading your recent adventures to Colorado Springs. I miss Colorado and the Rocky Mountains.

Lucy

hippokrene said...

I’m of the opinion that ‘self-destructive’ behaviors are part of a person’s predisposition and have nothing to do with artistic inclination. This person drinks when they’re unhappy, this person over/under eats, this person can’t commit to a relationship, this person works too hard, etc. They could be a writer or actor or computer programmer or carpenter. I don’t believe writers are especially hard hit when it comes to mental illnesses.

I do believe that writing can be very demanding. It does eat up your free time in a way other activities just don’t do and it does require a level of dedication and self-discipline akin to being an athlete. Only, the payoff is much less and you won’t get buff or svelte doing it.

Where each person draws a line is up to them. There are many people who are anti-social by inclination, not because they are ‘sacrificing’ for their art. I have a friend who’s a lawyer and she’s fielded more than a few questions about when/if she’ll be having children. Managing family and career can be a balancing act, and for some, that balancing act isn’t worth it.

While Hollywood bombards us with the idea that true happiness can only be found through family and friends (while simultaneously telling us that our worth is tied into our money, looks, and material goods) there are those who find more contentment and pleasure in their work than in other people.

I think it’s just as easy to ‘destroy’ yourself by letting go of your dreams as it is by chasing them.

Bane of Anubis said...

Lucinda, it's not fathoming the emotions, it's sympathizing with them (not empathizing) that's difficult for some. As someone who has an alcoholic father and an alcoholic/bulimic sister, I've seen some of the demons that can haunt - it doesn't mean one has to accept or appreciate them (demons) or find some cathartic resonance in others' miseries.

allegory19 said...

I like the Other Lisa's post because I've thought the same thing. Hard work + dedication = success (i.e. The American Dream). But sadly it doesn't always work that way, especially with us creative folks.

It's a struggle, but what other options do we have? Live normal, ordinary lives? I don't think so.

abc said...

RW--I love Cary Tennis! He's my hero.

As for The Wrestler--really like and greatly moved by it (especially that Mickey Rourke performance). Saw it less as the life of an Artist and more as man's need to feel important. To shine. In essence, to be loved. Not that he wasn't an artist. But I felt that what drove him was not pursuit of art, but pursuit of meaning.

PurpleClover said...

Lucinda -

I would argue that it is not a passion in that circumstance but an obsession or addiction.

Maybe someone doesn't fathom the emotions of that type of "passion" because they never walked a mile in his shoes. But whom is walking in their shoes? And understanding the pain or emotions from their perspective? They're a victim as well. Most times the bigger victim.

Everyone that battles addiction may not choose the same vice. Writing can be an addiction. It is great when someone doesn't have restrictions that keep them from indulging in a somewhat harmless addiction. But when they have a family to consider, it is still an addiction that is victimizing someone.

PurpleClover said...

And that is when they are writing to an extreme (not making time for family). I don't think everyone has an addiction. I hope that came across the way I intended.

Laurel said...

abc:

"the pursuit of meaning"

You nailed it! My favortie passage in "Their Eyes Were Watching God" is the one that says "like all the other tumbling mudballs, Janie had tried to show her shine." (I didn't look that up so if it's not perfect my apologies.)

There are two reasons people are driven to write: there is a recognized truth they are trying to express (Harper Lee, Flannery O'Connor) or an intangible truth they are seeking (Poe, maybe? & Faulkner and again Flannery O'Connor). Restless and probing intelligence seeking an outlet. When the talent meets the truth the world is blessed with a classic. Sometimes just one or the other is present and the chemistry isn't there.

Everything else is just for fun or escape. Just as valid for the writer but nowhere near as valuable for the reader.

Kristi said...

Mira and Marilyn -

You both probably know of this book, but "Seth Speaks" by Jane Roberts is a fascinating read about the many lives/many worlds theory. It gives you a lot of food for thought. :)

Dara said...

Haven't seen the movie. I think though that the themes can be applied to any sort of profession. I know too many people who often put their career ahead of their family at a cost--mainly in the form of alienation from their children and spouse.

There's a line between being devoted to your craft/passion and being obsessed and/or possessed by it. Ultimately you end up sacrificing another important aspect of life and look back with regret.

Just my humble opinion :)

Anonymous said...

It shouldn't really take THAT much time if you know what you're doing. 10 hours a week for a year straight = an edited and revised commerically viable novel (if you know what you're doing).


I think the key is having read enough before you start writing.

MaLanie said...

Myra, I get you.

Nathan, I think everyone of us is born with some form of creative expression that wants to be birthed into the world.

But each one of us is given some sort of oppoistion to overcome in order to birth it.

And we have the choice to either overcome or keep fighting the same fight over and over until we get it.

I know for myself its the labels I was given as a child. I was told I was not smart; I flunked most of my test and of course I went out into life believing these lies.(This was before Dyslexia test were conducted in schools.)

I am thirty-seven years old, trying to understand adverbs, adjectives and the whole craft of writing so that I can produce just one beautiful manuscript.

There are times when I want to give up and say to myself, "hey, dummy who do you think you are trying to write a book." And those are the days I have to make a choice who it is I want to be.

hippokrene said...

Anonymous: “It shouldn't really take THAT much time if you know what you're doing. 10 hours a week for a year straight = an edited and revised commerically viable novel (if you know what you're doing).


I think the key is having read enough before you start writing.”
It’s not my intent to insult you, but you sound rather ignorant.

You learn to write by writing. You can read hundreds of books before you start writing, but your writing and editing skills will still be crap. Your suggestion is akin to me saying that if a person reads a bunch of books beforehand, they can just pick up material and tools and make a ‘commercially viable’ house within a year.

Yes, we’ve all heard about young novelists who’ve never written a story in their life sitting down and churning out a novel that goes on to make it big. (As in, Eragon) But, those are the exceptions. The average novelist spends years writing before they produce a publishable novel.

Lucinda said...

PurpleClover...

I think you expressed it very well.

And I agree with what you said.

What I said may not have been expressed clearly, however.

I understood the question a little differently. I did not mean to say that every writer is obsessed, or not. My intent was to comment about the aspiration and DISTRUCTIVE writing lifestyle. Any lifestyle that is obsessive, even hobbies or watching television programs as if they were an intricate part of real life, texting on cell-phones, etc can contribute to breakdown of family, loss of jobs, and damaged relationships.

While studying Art Appreciation, it was difficult to understand the stories of how some artists forsook family, friends, and jobs for their obsession. We can learn about them, but unless we can get inside their heads, it would be impossible to fully understand.


Hippokrene.... thank you...


Lucy

T. Anne said...

At the end of the day passion drives the train. I have to write, like I have to breathe. I don't let it get in the way of real life or my family although there are times it needs to be quelled. It begs for my attention and I love to give it more than it deserves.

laura said...

i just watched 'the wrestler' last night. what really struck me about it on a narrative level was the blank space, the moments of not talking, not having dialogue. i was impressed with how the story was largely told that way.

minnesotasnowgem said...

Saw the movie-loved it. I think it goes deeper than what you wrote Nathan. Artists, whether writer's actor's or any other kind, embody a feeling that can only be fulfilled by that passion. Sure, plenty of people out there find a balance. But to many artists, their 'genius' is an unquenchable thirst.

minnesotasnowgem said...

Saw the movie-loved it. But I think it goes deeper than that Nathan. Most artists are 'tortured' because nothing gives them pleasure the way their 'passion' does. Sure, people out there find a balance. But to many artists, their love of what they do is an unquenchable thirst.

Anonymous said...

I hope I can go out like Randy did.

Writer from Hell said...

"Most people want something more out of life, and when that fails even despite almost insane efforts and doing every single thing possible, it's one of life's great tragedies."

Very beautifully summed up. Wd certainly like to see that movie. Are you its writer's agent?

Anonymous said...

writing a long tale
in the sand
wanting it to be
the writing on the wall
waves might crash on
or sneak in
and wipe it all away
writer remains..

kdrausin said...

Hmm,live a life that's more than ordinary. I used to think this life exhisted when I was a teenager. I took off for LA thinking I was going to become a famous actress. I met two "famous" actors who had graced the big screen. They were two of the unhappiest people I ever met because they looked only to their next big imagined break. That life wasn't for me.

Now, as a writer, I don't kid myself that a best selling published book is going to make me any happier than I am today. I write because it is who I am, no suffering. Does this make me less of an artist?

PurpleClover said...

Lucinda -

I'm sorry for my confusion.

I have to say in regards to your art appreciation, one artist that comes to mind is Salvador Dali. One of my favorite artists. Now what was he thinking?

Benjamin Pistorius said...

kdrausin

I think that makes you more of an artist. When you write because it's you then that is art.

One thing you said caught my attention though. You said, there's no suffering, but—call me crazy—I don't believe that for a minute. I have not talked to many writers who can say there was no suffering involved in their writing. I think we simply count the suffering it takes to write as a worthwhile cost to the pleasure it brings. Because it truly is worth it.

Mystery Robin said...

To be completely honest, that doesn't resonate with me at all. I think it's our responsibility as human beings to balance our goals and dreams with our responsibilities.

More out of life doesn't necessarily mean a book at Barnes and Noble - not if your kid doesn't want to talk to you. More out of life is using the gifts and talents we've been given, living up to the responsibilities we've either taken on or been handed, and having people in our lives who are better for having known us.

I want to write to contribute to the literary conversation, to communicate, to touch people. But there's no one's life I'll touch more than my daughters' (or son's). No one who reads one of my books will be impacted more than my husband will be by my life.

First things first. People before dreams.

Mira said...

Anon - I like your poem.

Regarding people who think that if you read enough, you can easily write a best-selling book.

Absolutely true.

Specifically you should read MY book.

It will be entitled: "How to write a best-selling book in 1 year by writing 10 hours a week and reading lots of books."

Oddly enough, I predict it will take me about 5 hours to write that whole book. But I'm the exception.

Buy my book! Be a writer! It's easy peasy!

Jen C said...

Mira,

I look forward to your posts every day! They make me LOL.

Chuck H. said...

I enjoy writing. When the words are coming, there's just nothing like it. Even when they're not, I still love it. I thought it was the same for everyone until I had the opportunity to talk to a famous screenwriter and he told me that it was always torture for him. So I asked him why he kept at it and he said because he just had to.

KathyF said...

Hmmm... I've been seeing a lot of comments lately about not letting writing take over your life, hurt your family, etc. (On other forums, mostly.)

But that doesn't resonate with me at all. My husband has told me several times (once just last week) that he thinks I should write because he thinks both he and my son would be happier if I were happier. And he thinks it would be a good role model for son to see their mother being happy.

Of course, I don't ignore them either. And I involve my son in my writing as well. He just told me this morning how fun it was to talk with me about my writing ideas while I walked him to school. (We talk about his stuff on other days.)

When I follow my goals and dreams, that is when things are best for my family. Because they are a significant part of my goals and dreams.

It's when I follow what society (whatever that is) says I should do that things really fall apart.

KathyF

Word verification: subjecti as in this is very subject to I.

Ann Victor said...

Nathan said "...broken, depressed...and basically alone". Were you talking about The Wrestler or unpubbed writers???

(only kidding!)

This post has changed my mind about seeing the movie.

Marilyn Peake said...

Mira said:
"It's the other worlds where we know how to fly and can move objects with our minds."

Hehehe. Cool!

Fire_eyes007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

Jen C and Marilyn,

:-)

I also want to add that I really enjoyed reading and resonated with what people had to say on this thread.

Fire_eyes007 said...

I seem to reach the other worlds when I dream. I fly, move objects with my mind, and have even had a fantastic wizards' duel with the devil, shooting fireballs from my hands and everything (this was years before Harry Potter)!

Unfortunately, I always wake up. Well I guess that IS fortunate, but my hands sometimes twitch with the urge to demonstrate some really nifty tricks.

Nathan Bransford said...

Some people are mentioning that they find it easy to balance writing and life, but I guess I don't know many people who have put in the time it takes to become a published author and haven't sacrificed something along the way, whether it was waking up at ungodly hours, sacrificing time with friends and family, or building their entire lives around the goal.

It's just so competitive to make it as an author these days, and it usually takes sacrifice. That's what this movie was about. He definitely took it too far and it's a fine line, but I think it resonated with what I've seen of the writer's life.

ryan said...

This question doesn't really pertain to the topic at hand though it might show some of my own obsession with my craft.

I've been thinking about getting a website but I have no skill in designing one. If I set up a temp website at a location like proboards.com and kept the website closed to members except for myself would that be acceptable. Mainly what I want to know is if it is a forum sort of website with closed membership would I be able to post material that I have written without having an official copy write. Or, would I be better off waiting until I have my own website?

Writer from Hell said...

Mira, comment 8:36 pm.

Thats a good book you are writing. I remember a saying - 'if you steal from one author, it is plagiarism, if from many, research'.

Yes Mr. Brown sacrifices are many.. just too many and yet we do not know...
after the dusk
before the dawn
words that flow
will ever see
the light of the day

Writer from Hell said...

..yet the knoweldge gained, the personal growth, the joy of expression and creation does not go away regardless of the outcome. There is something gained, something v beautiful remains.

Marilyn Peake said...

Kristi said:
... "Seth Speaks" by Jane Roberts is a fascinating read about the many lives/many worlds theory. It gives you a lot of food for thought. :)

I hadn't heard about that book, so thanks for mentioning it. I read about a number of different scientific theories regarding time travel, and found the Many-Worlds Theory of Quantum Mechanics fascinating. I also loved reading about time as a fourth dimension, along with the idea that the four dimensions of space-time can be manipulated like fabric, plus the theories behind the idea of a fifth dimension. Lots of fun!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan..
I also watched The Wrestler this weekend.
But I want to differ from your interpretation of it.
The Wrestler isn't chasing a dream till the point of ruin; instead, as he tells his daughter, he is just old and broken, a piece of meat. His dreams are over, and he keeps returning to his past, to search for an ephemeral high and a sense of purpose in his drifting, crumbling life.

Jen C said...

Nathan Bransford said...
Some people are mentioning that they find it easy to balance writing and life, but I guess I don't know many people who have put in the time it takes to become a published author and haven't sacrificed something along the way


It's pretty easy to balance writing and life if you don't really have much of a life!

Jen C said...

Er, socially, I mean..

Claudette said...

I didn't see the movie, but based on your description, I can relate to Randy the Ram. Maybe not to the point of complete self destruction, but certainly to the point that creating art, and doing something more than the mundane with your life is well worth the sacrifice. When I typed the last sentence of my first novel, I cried like a baby. I had never experienced that type of joy and exhileration on a job. I have made many sacrifices to write, and I'm sure that from the outside in, those sacrifices may seem a bit destructive to some, but from the inside out, it's just joy.

Pinkie said...

I was one of those tortured artists for the longest time. Then, thankfully, a doctor diagnosed my problem as depression, put me on pills and therapy, and I’ve been on the mend ever since. For many, many years, I dulled the pain of undiagnosed depression with alcohol and drugs. I wrote, what I could, but the hole in my spirit was too large to forge any meaningful relationship between creativity and me. Those around me accepted my life as the typical life of the tortured artist. But I refused to give up. I knew there was something inside of me that was worthy of the light, and even in my darkest days, I had a dream of being able to touch people with my art.

It’s a long process to emerge out of the dark vortex of fear. It’s been nearly 15 years now since that doctored diagnosed me and it’s only recently that I feel quite comfortable in my skin. The healing process for me is all about being able to totally trust another human being—and that is my wife, and by extension, my children. For the longest time, 17 years, I related to my wife as a judge. Today, she is my partner. It’s very liberating to trust her with my inner most fears and hopes. I love this new life and from it springs new creativity.

The tortured artist is perhaps no different from any other tortured human being. We all want to be in community. We all want to be connected and be valued for our connection. The artist, perhaps, feels the loss of connection on a more visible, dramatic level—through art. And the artist, perhaps, has implicit permission from the community to display his or her disaffection with community on a more visible, dramatic level.

All I know is that I’m glad I’m not dead, I’m glad I feel connected to family and community, and I’m glad that I can pursue my art. Oh yeah, I’m also glad for the Nathan Bransford community, which can be counted on to always provide a rich and enlightening forum on the human condition.

CPK

Martin said...

I thought this was the second best movie last year (The Visitor was phenomenal and should have won an Oscar, but I digress.)

I thought this movie wasn't so much about fighting and sacrificing for something, as realizing you have to be who you are. He wasn't nicknamed "The Ram" by accident. Jam an actual ram in a suit or put a hairnet on him and he's still a ram. People will point and say "Hey. What's up with the ram in the hairnet?"

I thought this was highlighted even more by Marisa Tomei's character, who strived to be something she wasn't. Nice duality there.

I'm often asked why I write. Why do people assume I have a choice?

Justus M. Bowman said...

I haven't seen it, but from what I've heard, it's a deeper movie than the title implies.

starduster said...

You summed up my life in the next to last paragraph of your blog in three sentences. My kids say I am good at chasing windmills and impossible dreams. I have not seen that movie, but I pretty darn well live it. I can tell you are a sensitive and intutive person and being a Cancer makes it even more so.

Ben Dutton said...

I used to have an incredibly self-destructive personality, a lot of which I channelled into my writing, and I produced a lot of material, a lot of it very bleak. Other people would read it and hand it back after a few chapters with words like: "It's good that someone is willing to write about this stuff but I sure as hell don't want to read it." I went through hell everyday. Writing became my release. I had no real friends, no real contact with the world. Then I started to write and drink and then it was just drinking and no writing. I had to leave where I was, start anew. Now I write everyday, for hours, and have completed two novels in one year. But I have friends now. I work in a shop part time. I'm not self-destructive. The writing has brightened, it's not tonally bleak, though bleakness is ever-present, and I saw my first novel published and I'm getting positive feedback on the second, and the knowledge that a third novel is completed is helping open more doors still. I think the work you have needs to reach a critical mass for people to take note.

So once I believed and tried to live the myth of the writer as self-destructive. I wanted to die before 30 leaving behind maybe one brilliant novel. I'm 30 in August and don't think I've written that brilliant novel yet, but I'm working towards it. As Zadie Smith wrote, we should fail better. So if I once believed in the self-destructive genius I know believe that it just doesn't happen, you have to work towards it, and keep working, and then work some more, and if it still doesn't happen, at least you did the work. Because it is the work that matters. If just one person reads it and is moved you've done your job.

Amethyst Greye Alexander said...

I saw The Wrestler just the other night and while I definitely award all the talent who made the movie (they did a wonderful job) the movie itself left me feeling almost dirty, likesome sort of ick now covered my skin. I grew up far too close to that sort of thing to be able to look at it objectively.

On the flipside, trying to become a published author may be a bit of gauntlet-running, but writing itself is more like a sanctuary for me. It goes hand-in-hand with how reading helped me escape the brittle world I grew up in.

Now I'm more blessed than I can describe, and the most worrisome thing to plague me is boredom and repetition, but writing is the cure for that as well.

And now I need some coffee, because I'm sure I'm rambling. *grin*

Amethyst

PurpleClover said...

I personally find it difficult to balance writing with life. I would assume that those that say it is easy must not have many obligations. But for all I know, maybe these people are machines and have great prioritization skills.

One thing I've lost out on with writing - sleep!

Martin said...

What is this "sleep" of which you speak?

:)

Joseph L. Selby said...

Saw the movie. My first thought was, "Wow, Marissa Tome gets better looking the older she gets."

I used to write constantly. And while my wife was vocally supportive of it, she didn't like my absence and any dedicated writing time would dissolve after a few weeks. Now that I have such a long commute, I use that for dedicated writing time. I get a lot done and she doesn't feel cheated of her time together

BarbS. said...

Some people compare the scene in which Randy explains himself to his daughter to the "I coulda been a contender" scene in On the Waterfront.

Big difference: Brando was acting. Rourke was telling the story of his own life.

Writer from Hell said...

Ben Dutton 5:48am. WOW. Very inspiring.

kdrausin said...

Benjamin P.-Thanks for responding.
Ask yourself why you want a published book or why you have any goal. Eventually if you keep asking you will get to the answer.. "because it makes me happy" Does this mean you are not happy with the process of reaching your goal or living each day?-just something to think about-

Those that have had their ordinary life threatened understand its true beauty. I am all for hard work and setting extreme goals. I'm Italian and I have incredible focus and determination but I also understand what true suffering is and it's not (to me) doing what I love. It's my 15 year old daughter who was paralyzed at ten and has to live everyday wondering if she will ever walk again-

Mystery Robin and Kathy F.- I agree :) When I finished my novel, we celebrated with a family dinner at Carrabas. My kids were very excited. I realized that no matter what happened with the book, I had passed on valuable lessons to my children. Dream,commit,pursue,enjoy! You don't know what tomorrow will bring.

Mira said...

Kristi - I have read 'Seth Speaks.' It didn't quite work for me personally as 'truth,' but as a metaphor, I thought it had a lot of interesting things to say.

Matilda McCloud said...

To me, writing reminds me of Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters molding his mashed potatoes into Devil's Tower on his dinner plate. He's not sure why he's doing it, but knows he has to. Writing has involved sacrifice for me, but my husband and sons are tolerant and that helps.

I highly recommend listening on Youtube to Elizabeth Gilbert's talk: A New Way to Look at Creativity. She discusses self-destructiveness and so on, but has a different spin on the whole subject (just search on Youtube--it's the first thing that comes up under her name)

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

The desire to do something that is, at first, insular is an odd thread in life's rich tapestry. The demands upon our time (relationships and responsibilitiies) weave such tight restraints that many people don't get to pursue their dream with enough vigour.
The destructive part is that so much of the process (of becoming a published author) is out of the writer's control.

Jil said...

For me writing is the joy of losing myself in another world, and my wish to be published is to have other people share and understand that world and for a while be someone else.
I have only seen excerpts from the Wrestler but it seems he could not move on from one successful career to another, which we all, especially athletes, must do. He could only look backward - until now, of course, when he's moved on to the movie.

TecZ aka Dalton C Teczon - Writer said...

I'm compelled to see the movie now. It has a great cast. Deep, moving, emotional story. Thanks for the movie review. I'll check it out asap.

Lucy said...

Other Lisa said...

"Hmmm...why is it that I suddenly want to recite lyrics from "The Gambler"? :)"

That is the perfect song for any great endeavor, and it sure fits the writing ones. Nice thought.

wordver: unismot

Um, I don't even want to go there.

Lee Anderson said...

I was thinking the exact same thing while watching this movie. No kidding. It was an intense, uncomfortable flick which left me wondering if ultimately this was the same fate awaiting me at the end of my writing career - being broke, alone, and desperate. Mickey Rourke plays a man coming to terms with the fact that he's just a man, not a superhero or an action figure. Very heartbreaking stuff.

Jenny Bondurant said...

One of the most memorable moments in any of the writing classes I've taken ... When the professor stood up on the first day and said "You know that most writers end up alcoholics and/or suicidal, don't you?"

LCS249 said...

Interesting that you should see parallels ... what I saw was a person bereft of any true intellectual understanding of anything. He was driven by his emotions and his body (which was worn out ...). A writer's life is by necessity an intellectual life. No?

The struggle for me, as a writer, is that it is indeed a lonely existence; not so much out of choice as out of its organic reality -- writing is nearly all internal except for one's interaction with a screen or a piece of paper. Even the preparation for writing (reading everything) is largely internal. The only external activity is workshops. And then you're trying to explain your internal life to others who are wrapped up in theirs.

It's perhaps no less addictive being a writer, impossible to get away from, just as Randy believed that performing and bleeding was what he was meant to do, or the only way he could be loved.

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