Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously (Unless You’re Writing Something Serious)

I promise: this one is going to be short today because I want to get back to working on my story, heh.

So I Went & Saw Super 8.

Big deal, right? 😀

I’ve got mixed feelings about the ending of the movie, but overall I have to say…


You can’t really tell how much fun this movie is just by looking at the trailer, but trust me, it is.  It was also scary at times (I’m telling you, the sound effects had me going), and the kid actors were great to watch.  (Elle Fanning did an especially wonderful job, imo.)  I think I was reading a review on Rotten Tomatoes that said something like, “Super 8 reminds us why we love the movies.”  (Oh no, here it is.)

It’s true!

It was like this legit old school way to tell stories (there was a certain way about the stunts and characters), something I haven’t seen since I first saw The Goonies on TV (which, btw, was maybe six-or-so months ago).  The characters were so Steven Spielberg.  It was great.

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about then you are totally missing out!

What I Took Away From The Film As A Writer

It’s pretty simple, really.

Watching Super 8 reminded me of why I started writing this monster-of-a book: I wanted to write an adventure story that was fun to read and even more fun to write.  (I can only imagine how much fun J.J. Abrams had making that film with Spielberg producing.)  But when you’re kind of a perfectionist…sometimes “fun” can go out the window in pursuit of, well, perfection.

I have a bad habit of slipping into this mode when I’m not watching, when I’m working on the novel or anything else requiring serious effort, though it usually only happens when I spend less time writing the thing than I do thinking about it.  Once I turn on the conscious critic, it’s over.  Now, usually some really great ideas come out of these morose periods, and in many ways I find it absolutely necessary to go there every now and then, but the danger is that one can stay in this place for way too long.

Don’t let that be you.

You know what I do now when I’m feeling depressed about how far along I still have to bring my story so that it’s at that shiny place I want it to be?  I watch a really good movie–not read a good book (because I’ve come to realize that I’m too likely to get depressed, to be honest) but a movie.  I also listen to really great music, the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard.  I am a highly visual-auditory learner, so when I see and hear the best being played out before me it always reminds me of why I want to tell my own story, and by the end I simply cannot wait to get back to what I’ve been wanting to do all along: tell the best story I can.

I’m inspired by the best to produce my best.  I wanna can that bit of awesomeness, take it home, crack it back open, mix in some original ingredients and serve up my own greatness, thank you very much.

Of course, you can fall into the trap of always watching movies or listening to music and then never get anything done, but that’s true with just about anything.  In moderation, though, these things can inspire.

So Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

…or else you may lose your joy of writing!

Oh, and here’s the movie trailer for Super 8 if you haven’t seen it yet (ha!):

What do you do when you find yourself taking writing too seriously?


12 thoughts on “Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously (Unless You’re Writing Something Serious)

  1. Oh yes, I know very well how perfectionism can squeeze the joy out of the writing. There are times when the writing just feels like a chore, and some of it is (revisions!). Hmm but how to get out of the funk? I’m still working on that. Sometimes it’s good to take a break, and the funk is really just a symptom of fatigue.


    • “Fatigue” is a good word for this feeling–especially if you’ve been working on something for a few years, heh. And I agree with taking breaks. I know I can easily burn myself out if I’m not careful, especially when I get into The Zone. Eh. (Oh, thanks for the Tweet, btw. ^_^)


  2. I take everything too seriously. I always have. I don’t know if that’s a quirk or a full-blown personality flaw. I care about stories. This can make me a hard person to watch a movie with.
    /spoiler alert

    I think Super 8 was the first ‘good’ movie I’ve seen this year. Even so, there were some flaws that made me wince a bit. (Again, the military is the bad guy and why am I supposed to sympathize with a monster that EATS PEOPLE?!) It was also a little too meta: a movie about kids making a movie, talking about storytelling, production value and character development…I hung a lampshade on a movie that didn’t need that stuff.

    That said, I enjoyed Super 8 very much. The characters all felt real and that’s a wonderful gift to the audience. It felt like good Spielberg and it’s been a long time since we had movies like that.

    I do agree that writing needs to be fun (I’ve yet to find a way to make editing fun for me, though). We need to tell stories that we’d love to read. If you’re reading your own stuff and getting bored, then change things. Keep the fun, keep the snappy dialog, the parts that make you laugh out loud. If you don’t love your work, how is anyone else supposed to?


    • I agree, the movie had flaws, though I think they were minor enough not to outweigh all the good stuff.

      That’s a great way to tell if something needs to be changed in your story, too, is noticing whether you’re falling asleep in the middle of reading your own writing! lol. Those kinds of scenes aren’t especially fun to work on at first, but once you discover a way to make it better and can get excited about that idea, then it makes the prospect of returning to that section way more bearable. Sometimes that requires a complete rewrite, but in the end it’ll be totally worth it!


  3. Haven’t seen it yet, but I hope to see it this year (Dear Wife and I rarely get out, no doubt thanks in part to a certain toddler). I was excited by the trailers, and the postive reviews were just enough to get me really jazzed.

    Interesting advice, not to take yourself too seriously. That’s probably good advice for life, too…


    • Heh, yeah, probably. 😀

      The movie was enjoyable. There was some, ehem, language in the film that may be a concern for some, but other than that it was A-OK.


  4. Yes, movies can be good. Music, too, as Natalia Sylvester talks about here:
    Or it can be simply getting outside, walking around.

    As for taking yourself too seriously, another problem with that is that it can lead to a story with no humor. All stories, of all kinds, need humor. It’s a part of life, after all. One of my many complaints about the Millenium books was their complete lack of humor (at least in the English translation). C’mon, Shakeapearean tragedies have humor, Ulysses has jokes (good ones, too).

    Obviously, ill-timed (or unfunny) jokes can take the reader out of a story in a flash, but one of the challenges of writing is putting appropriate humor in appropriate places. The day my father died, my mother and I had a couple of laughs, here and there. My father was a humorist, so he would have understood.


    • Thanks for sharing the link. 🙂

      Ya know…it’s was like 108 degrees over here in AZ the other day and even the nights can be hot, so…I tend not to go outside in the summer, haha. (And here, there’s pretty much only two seasons: hot and chilly. Of course, the hottest one seems to last the longest.) But when it is nice out it’s definitely nice to go.

      Humor! That’s an interesting point. I don’t think I always realize when I’m using that when I write because I tend to be smart-alecky around the house naturally and usually manage to make the family laugh. I’m reading one novel now that I’m actually getting kind of bored with…and now that I think about it it’s probably because it has close to zero humor. Thanks for bringing that up, Anthony! (I think that’s awesome you guys were able to maintain humor on such a grim day. Laughter, humor…such wonderful things!)


  5. Hi Yoyo,

    I saw the teaser trailer on this and when I saw another ‘brother” get killed, I was instantly turned off:

    I do miss the days of real film making like The Goonies, The Sandlot, or Back To The Future where the characters felt like your next door neighbor or the kids that you grew up with. Although the thought of a man-eating creature is repulsive, I may check this out when this comes on DVD.

    Besides The Goonies, what are some other Spielberg films you have enjoyed?


    • Yeah, that’s what it is: that “kid next door” feeling!

      Btw, that teaser trailer you linked is actually misleading, as far as the “brother” goes, heh. In any case, there’s a lot more to his character than getting swiped up by some alien! (Though, I have a feeling you’d still be disappointed, haha. Just sayin’.)

      Gees, Steven Spielberg’s been around for ages, huh? Being so young, I’ve actually seen way more of his later movies than the “old school” kind like The Goonies and E.T., seeing as to how I happened to be born somewhere in the middle of his career. I suppose that’s part of the reason why J.J. Abram’s Spielberg-ish style in Super 8 stood out to me as much as it did; it felt fresh and almost novel to me, despite being rooted in old origins.

      Spielberg’s later movie Artificial Intelligence was a very surreal one for me (so odd). Empire of the Sun similarly shared some of that surrealism I was left with when I first watched A.I. because both of their environments were especially foreign to me. Also, I was pretty young when I watched those two and wasn’t entirely sure what to make of them. (I remember sneaking A.I. from my parents’ collection and watching it earlier in the morning and in the dark, so as not to wake them. Maybe there are some movies that kids/young people just shouldn’t watch until they’re of a certain age, haha. Oh well, too late now!)

      I like a lot of his other ones, to be sure: Minority Report, the Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones movies… What’s crazy is that’s he’s produced, directed and/or written soooo many movies! Makes it difficult to sort out his role(s) in each, too.


  6. I really liked Minority Report. I think it’s underrated.

    (I watching it with my mother once, but she couldn’t get past the fact that Tom Cruise gives her the willies. I think the only time she ever liked him was Tropic Thunder, because she didn’t know it was him. 🙂 )


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