Today is Groundhog Day, when people all over the United States wait to hear if groundhog Phil's shadow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is visible. We've been doing this since the 1800's even though it's an incredibly weird thing to depend on a rhodent's shadow to predict when Spring will begin.
Still, when a writer hears about "Groundhog Day," most of us think of the 1993 movie with Bill Murray. Did he play the best curmudgeon weatherman in that film, or what? For those of you who haven't seen the movie, Bill Murray (Phil) is trapped in the time warp of reliving Groundhog Day over and over again...until his character stops being so sour and self-centered and learns how to love.
People magazine did an article on life lessons from Groundhog Day that inspired me. The movie isn't just about reliving your days on an endless loop of sameness, it is also chock-full of writing lessons.
1. Write as authentically as you possibly can.
The movie examines the question: How would you act if there were nothing beyond today?
What if this was the last day you were ever able to write? Would you want to know that you stared at the page, afraid to let out what was in your heart? Wouldn't it torture you to think that you angsted over those words, instead of spilling them forth with joy and gratitude?
Whatever is inside you, just write it. Stop worrying about how it sounds, if it's good enough, what your mother/brother/spouse would think of your words. Write the story that only you can write. The world needs our stories.
2. You've gotta have a tribe.
At the beginning of the film, Murray’s character doesn’t exactly love other people. Getting trapped in the same spot, with all the same people, forces Phil to get to know all the people he’d otherwise shut out of his little world.
A lot of writers are introverts, which means that a lot of "people time" wears them out. You don't have to wade into a crowd to build your tribe. You can find them one-on-one online, or you can join a critique group. There are smaller conferences available if the bigger ones scare the introverted pants off of you. But wade in, even if it scares you, and find your tribe.
Maybe you've already found a tribe by hanging out here at WITS, or some other blog...but do you comment and engage? (If that answer has been a resounding "no," why not change that to a "yes?")
3. Tell people they’re important to you.
One of the greatest journeys for Murray’s character is realizing what a great person he has in his producer Rita (played by Andie McDowell). But for him to tell her she's important to him? Fuggedaboutit.
Most people have trouble being vulnerable...but we're writers. We live our lives vulnerable. That's why we are amazing Emotional Ninja Warriors. So, if you haven't told your tribe lately how important they are to you, today is a good day to do that.
4. Ignore stupid rules.
This goes back to Lesson #1. If you are living and writing authentically, you are bringing your entire self to as many of your day's moments as possible. You are stretching your brain and your emotions and your ability so you can "bring it" to the page. Don't let the "shoulds" and "can'ts" and "what ifs" block you.
Ignore them. Those three bozos stop a heck of a lot of writing.
Ignore the inner critic who tells you how bad you suck. Ignore the naysayers who tell you a book can only be done a certain way. It's not their story, it's yours. Write it the way it make sense to you and worry about the "shoulds" some other day.
5. Don’t give up.
Groundhog Day examines the life metaphor: "Most of us have at some point been trapped in a situation where no matter what we did, we couldn’t extricate ourselves from some endless cycle of lameness."
Sometimes it's tempting to give up this writing gig. If we're not selling or earning or writing -- or whatever it is that's not working out well -- we think about the benefits of spending our time on less frustrating pursuits.
It's okay to entertain thoughts of doing something else. Go ahead, entertain it for a second. We'll wait.
[If you liked that giving up fantasy a bit more than you expected, amble over to Colleen Story's amazing post on the power of giving up.]
Now think about the eternal frustration of having all those characters in your head, with no conduit onto the page. You are the conduit. Something about this crazy writing gig feeds your soul. You were put on this planet to give all those characters a voice, so giving up isn't really an option, even though we all entertain it on the crappy days.
Finally, a shout out to all of you here at WITS. We appreciate that you walk this writing road with us. It's a journey that none of us could ever undertake alone. Get ready for our first Pimp and Promote of the year on Monday!
What writing lessons were the hardest for you to learn? What things make you want to quit? Did you watch "Groundhog Day?" What lesson did you take away from the movie?
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By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.