Ease Discouragement in 90 Minutes or Less

I caught The Avengers on HBO today. Despite my deep and long-lasting love for Ralph Fiennes (I fell in love with him when Quiz Show came out), I’d never seen it before. I watched The Avengers on PBS when I was a kid, and so many bad things were said about this movie before and right after it came out, I spared myself the disappointment.

Thirteen years later, it’s not disappointing. It’s encouraging and inspirational. Why? Because it’s so unbelievably godawful.

Watching a bad movie has always been a writing inspiration for me. Usually that’s because I can watch a complete story in only a couple of hours and figure out as it goes exactly why the story is bad and why the whole thing doesn’t work. It’s a type of story analysis that I think applies well to any type of storytelling. I like spotting what’s terrible, what isn’t bad, what could have been improved and how.

The Avengers offers inspiration for another reason. If you’re feeling discouraged about your writing (or anything), especially if you’re suffering with the not-good-enough-blues (and most writers get this at some time, even well-published ones), watch this movie. It’s a film that’s filled with a stunning amount of talent. Great actors, horrific film. Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Jim Broadbent, Sean Connery–the movie still sucks.

It’s a shining example of a simple fact that’s easy to forget–even the best at their craft don’t hit it out of the park every time. It’s good to be reminded of that when you feel discouraged. Most award-winning, box-office-record smashing actors made one or more real stinkers (and some make them now and then today). Great writers have also written crap, but usually that crap isn’t published. (Okay, sometimes it is, but that’s another discussion.)

If you’re feeling down, watch The Avengers. It’s fun to watch these well-known actors in such an awful movie. And even if if doesn’t completely lift your discouragement, you’ll still get to see the sublime Ralph Fiennes acting refined in a bowler, you’ll get to see Uma Thurman being badass in a leather pantsuit, and you’ll get to hear Sean Connery deliver cheesy lines in that fantastic voice of his, like my favorite line in the film: “John Steed. What a horse’s ass of a name.”

If you think it would make you feel far better to read a bad book by an otherwise enjoyable writer, I also have a recommendation for you. I read The Exorcist when I was in my twenties. I’d already seen the movie years before, but was surprised how good the book was. Legion, the sequel to that novel, is even better, in my opinion. So when I found some other novels by William Peter Blatty in a used bookstore years ago, I grabbed. them. I enjoyed The Ninth Configuration, though I didn’t think it was quite as good as the others. But an older book was painful to read, despite its short length.

Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane. This story was published 5 years before The Exorcist. In 5 years he went from Killer Kane (which I found truly, truly dreadful and almost incomprehensible at times) to The freaking Exorcist. And he’d published a few novels before Kane, none of which I’ve read. Kane was re-released after the success of The Exorcist, I suppose to cash in on its popularity, but it shouldn’t have been. If you’re feeling discouraged about your prospects, try to wrangle up a copy. After a few pages, you should feel better.

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 at 9:19 pm and is filed under Thoughts about Writing, Writing Inspiration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.


  1. August 23rd, 2011 | Milo James Fowler says:

    You’re right: The Avengers was awful — and not even in the “so bad it’s good” category. Sometimes it makes me feel better to watch/read the really bad stuff, and sometimes I find it disheartening. “This got published?” While my own work remains on the treadmill of rejections!

  2. August 23rd, 2011 | Liz says:

    So true! One of my inspirations has been a high school friend who has made it big in a popular genre. We used to work on stories together and I was always appalled by his writing skills. I suffered from the not-good-enough blues and he from an incomprehensible ego. He pursued his dream; I allowed my insecurities to take hold. Several millions later his writing has not improved,but his lifestyle has. The moral of the story: Persistence pays off. Particularly if you have talent,and apparently even if you don’t.

  3. August 23rd, 2011 | Madeline Mora-Summonte says:

    I usually think “Why am I watching/reading this?” but then I keep going because I have to see WHY it’s so bad – and if I can do that, then it was worth my time.

    Oh, and Sean Connery can say pretty much ANYTHING and it works. It just works. 🙂

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