from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #13: Being My(lazy-ass)self and Finding Forrester

with one comment

For my writing and debate classes, I use multimedia aids—movies and music—as much as possible. I can rationalize their use by arguing that I use them to engage the students and garner their interest in the subject matter, but my real purpose is simply to kill time. Why waste my time and energy explaining some concept when a video can say the same thing in twice the time?

For my writing class, I use clips from Finding Forrester, directed by Gus Van Sant. It’s the story of an inner-city kid from the Bronx, Jamal, who, through a carefully scripted turn of events, ends up going to a prestigious prep school and meeting William Forrester, the reclusive fictional writer of the great 20th century novel, Avalon Landing. By the end of the movie, both Jamal and Forrester learn the lessons needed for personal growth from one another. There are several insightful scenes, which I use liberally in my classes.

On writing your first draft and revision:

Forrester: Go ahead.
Jamal: Go ahead and what?
Forrester: Write.
Jamal: What are you doing?
Forrester: I’m writing, like you’ll be when you start punching those keys. [pause] Is there a problem?
Jamal: No, I’m just thinking.
Forrester: No, no thinking. That comes later. You write your first draft with your heart, and you re-write with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think.

On brainstorming (freewriting):

Jamal: “A Season of Faith’s Perfection.” What’s this?
Forrester: Start typing that. Sometimes the simple rhythm of typing gets us from page one to page two. And when you begin to feel your own words, start typing them.

I personally like the movie for its messages, messages that perhaps only a lazy bastard like myself would glean from this heartwarming tale of friendship. Message one: If you can write one good book and get published, you can spend the rest of your life doing absolutely nothing and be left to your own (de)vices. Message two: (on second thought, I’ll do as I usually do and let the movie speak for me).

Jamal: Oh. Well, they make all the students get up and read in front of everybody.
Forrester: What the hell does that got to do with writing? Writers write so that readers can read. Let someone else read it.
Jamal: You ever read your own book?
Forrester: In public? Hell, no. Barely read it in private. You know those things you do, that coffee shop reading shit? You know why they do it?
Jamal: Sell books, I guess.
Forrester: ‘Cause they want to get laid.
Jamal: Oh, really? Women will sleep with you if you write a book?
Forrester: Women will sleep with you if you write a bad book.
Jamal: Did it ever happen to you?
Forrester: Sure.

Hope. There is hope, even for a bad writer. Publishing is the goal; the Pulitzer can come later. Another source of inspiration I draw from is Californication, for obvious reasons. I’d use it in class, but the show is more about the lifestyle than the act of writing. Besides, it would be hard to justify all the nudity, sex, and drug use to a bunch of nerds.

[On a side note, I have done the “coffee shop reading shit” once. I read an excerpt from my fourth chapter for some anti-war event at a bar in Hongdae. There were no results.]


One Response

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  1. I really liked reading this article because it’s so paramount to me writing this book of mine. Plus the two references Finding Forster and Californication are two of my visual inspiration.

    Brian Dukuze

    December 27, 2014 at 6:33 am

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