In Pixar’s movie Coco, one of my favorite lines is by Ernesto de la Cruz. Ernesto is a famous singer and performer, who is shown playing a priest in one of his films. After a woman in the film exclaims “Oh, but padre, he will never listen,” Ernesto de la Cruz responds,
“He will listen to music!”
Here Pixar has put a movie within a movie, and the theme of this sub-movie happens to be the exact same theme of the overarching film Coco.
Not only is this a great line to explain the motivations of the priest, but it is also a line that applies to Ernesto, and Miguel, the protagonist who looks to emulate him.
It’s a very meta moment. A movie within a movie. A segment that is delivered in an over the top way, almost comical, manner in the film within the film, has also the function of perfectly calling out the theme of the larger story. And the beauty is that Pixar does all this without ever using a single metaphor. The meta qualities of ite film allow it to remove layers, and spell things out for us calling things for what they are.
The closer the story within the story is to the actual story encompassing it, in terms of story plot, the closer the thematic references can be made. If the plot matches, the themes can be expressed with little to no obfuscation. No metaphors, no allegories.
All that mumbo-jumbo, plus the fact that Ernesto de la Cruz’s charms are unquestionable.
I removed the comments from this blog. The trigger was the GRDP law and how it affects sites that capture user data (via the comments form), but also the realization that I have zero comments on the site, so why bother. And do I really want comments on the site? Isn’t there some sort of freedom that comes knowing you have the last word.
I don’t link to this blog from anywhere, and my only visitors are a bunch of lost robots. This is really a small place. A quiet place to speak out loud. A place of discovery, and learning.
Like for instance: I meet John Harris today (digitally speaking, virtually?), who is a fucking master. Just look at this stuff:
So there you have it. Any comments? That’s what I thought.
Writing can save your life. Writing, at its best, is a way of thinking. You put words down on a page to discover who you are and what you think. Writing is an ancient practice that helps you make sense of yourself and the world.
I just been discovering lately (very late, I know), that writing is a special kind of activity. To me it falls somewhere between drawing, meditating and therapy. It’s a pause, a moment away from everything and everybody, a small bubble of quiet comfort that helps me reflect and put my thoughts in order. And it is also a physical activity. It is a play of words and language, yes, but when I write longhand it is also an experience close to the visual arts.
And yes, I have only lately been aware of all this.
American author and writing teacher, John Dufresne talks about the essence of storytelling. What I love the most about this talk is that Dufresne (I was about to call him John but I corrected my mistake), explains the intricacies of how to write a story by telling a story himself. His talk is amazing, moving and inspiring talk.
”Stories aren’t written are rewritten.” —John Dufresne
2. The mystery of storytelling
by Julian Friedmann
Mr. Friedmann, who enjoys introducing himself as an agent giving literary advice, gives a very humorous talk about storytelling and writing entertaining stories.
”The story is much more about the audience than it is about the storyteller.” —Julian Friedmann
3. How to write an award-winning bestselling first novel
by Nathan Filer
Nathan Filer is an awarded British writer (The Shock of the Fall). He offers some actionable and realistic steps to write a successful novel.
Do you want to abridge version? I’ll give it to you, but do watch the talk, it’s worth every minute. Here it goes:
Have specific goals
Make sure your goals are achievable
Be prepared to fail
Base your affirmations on fact
Be flexible in how you get there
Focus on what you can control
“Being a writer is always a work in progress” —Nathan Filer
4. Why I Write about Elves
by Terry Brooks
If you are into epic fantasy fiction, no doubt you have read Terry Brooks. Listen to him talk about using writing to explore the questions that trouble the writer.
“Every time I sit down to begin another book, or I sit down to continue a book or I sit down to write, it’s exciting to know that I get a chance to look at something dressed up in different clothes, and find a way to make it come alive in a different way. And that’s the thing that keeps me doing this and that’s why I write about elves because I find the answers to life’s mysteries in that fashion.” —Terry Brooks
5. Why you should write
by Misan Sagay
Ok, enough about white men delivering wisdom, let’s switch it up. Misan Sagay is an Anglo-Nigerian screenwriter that talks about blackness, storytelling, female leads and filmmaking. All the things that we need more of.
“What story do you have to tell? Because your story will also never be made unless you choose to put it out there.” —Misan Sagay
6. Writing your future, revising your past, moving forward
by Yvonne Battle-Felton
Yvonne Battle-Felton is “a mother, a writer, a sister, a teacher, an associate professor” and much more. Battle-Felton talks about all this and about finding oneself on our stories and telling our own story.
“Claim your story before somebody else does.” —Yvonne Battle-Felton
7. Writing as an act of tribute
by Briony Goffin
Briony Goffin is a writer and teacher who talks about writing from our own experience and historical roots.
“As writers, by paying attention to the details of a given moment—remembered or imagined—we are allowing ourselves and our writing to come into definition.” —Briony Goffin
8. Faith and the Writer: When Life Meets Art
by Dinah Lenney
Dinah Lenney, an american actress and writer, declares to being “spiritually challenged” and sees writing as confessions, and guilt as the needed catalysts for writers.
“What do [writers] want? As with any relationship, we want to be known we want to see our selves reflected. We want answers, sure, but if we can’t have answers at least we want to know that other people are asking the same questions.” —Dinah Lenney
9. Why you will fail to have a great career
by Larry Smith
Ok, so this talk is not specifically about writing, but it is about pursuing a passion and having a great career. Larry Smith is a professor of economics and a great speaker, persuasive and motivating. Smith gives us all a kick in the butt, to shake us into action and to give us that extra push we need to beat our insecurities.
You know what you are. You’re afraid to pursue your passion. You’re afraid to look ridiculous. You’re afraid to try. You’re afraid you may fail. […] And that’s why you’re not going to have a great career. […] Unless…
Unless. —Larry Smith
I hope you enjoyed this list. I watched about a hundred TED talks about writing so I don’t think I will write about any TED talk any time soon. I really enjoyed the talks but I’ve OD’d on TED now.
So, what do you think about the talks above? And tell me, did I miss any good one?
In the selected list above women outweighed men 5 to 4 (The future is female my coworkers say. And I agree.) Do you think there are differences between the two groups? Are there common threads between them? Do they focus on similar or different topics?
“Every writer who writes for pay is running a small business. You have to create product, track inventory, bid on work, negotiate contracts, pay creditors, make sure you get paid and deal with taxes. Work has to be done on time and to specification. Your business reputation will help you get work — or will make sure you don’t get any more. This is your job. This is your business.”
—Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money by John Scalzi
Traditional writers (or traditionally minded writers) might be less inclined to treat their art as a business. This might be because it is the job of the agent, the editor, and the publisher to take care of the business side of things.
The world of self-publishing, on the other hand, is very driven by authors that spend as much energy in writing as they do promoting. Many of those independent authors plan the business side of writing, even before they write the first sentence of their books.
In summary, act like a pro, if you want to be one.
Here is a quote attributed 1 to the Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky (“Solaris”, “Stalker”, “The Mirror”):
“An artist will never, ever have ideal conditions to create, so don’t ever expect them.”
Do you believe that you need ideal conditions to create?
I know I fall victim of that fallacy every now and then. Surprisingly, I also realized that the times when I feel less inspired, or less motivated to write, I end up with some really good ideas if I only force myself to just write.
By forcing yourself to write when it feels most uncomfortable, you will push against those barriers in your minds that block your progress. Use that resistance as creative juice and push forward.
Here is Tarkovsky’s full quote extracted from the documentary “A Poet in Cinema”:
“An artist never works under ideal conditions. If they existed, his work wouldn’t exist, for the artist doesn’t live in a vacuum. Some sort of pressure must exist. The artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”