One of the most misunderstood professions has to be writing. Everyone seems to think you don’t need to spend any time doing it, that as soon as you have a book published you’ll be a millionaire, that it’s easy to get said book published in the first place, and that ‘they’ could/should/will write a book any day now, they just haven’t bothered yet, but they have ‘lots of ideas for books’ as if coming up with the idea is the hardest part of writing.
Where oh where do these misconceptions come from? Maybe Hollywood doesn’t help? Seven Psychopaths is about a writer who is struggling to finish his screenplay, and so his friend invites real psychopaths to come and share their stories. Seriously, when a writer is struggling, it’s not the coming up with ideas that’s the problem. It’s time, solitude, financial support…
But on the subject of financial support… Something’s Gotta Give. Diane Keaton is a playwright who owns a weekend retreat in the Hamptons(!) She doesn’t seem to need to spend much time writing to maintain this lavish lifestyle, and relationship traumas don’t seem to impact on her ability to write. Or how about Love Actually? Colin Firth seems to maintain a pad in London and a pretty nice place in France – with its own pond, for goodness sake. Any idea how much that would cost? He can afford to pay cleaners as well, despite being such a novice that he doesn’t even back anything up.
Talking about psychopaths.. isn’t it interesting how many writers in films turn out to be just that? Secret Window starring Johnny Depp, or The Shining with Jack Nicholson – both crazies. Maybe that’s because they’re both based on stories written by one of the best and most prolific writers – Stephen King – who loves crazies. Misery is THE best film about writing, if not (hopefully!) the most realistic, though sometimes the idea of someone locking me into a snow-bound cabin and taking care of my every need in order to force me to write, doesn’t sound so unappealing. Not sure about the hammer though….
At least in Stranger Than Fiction Emma Thomson is always at her desk with that slightly harassed, not really listening to you expression that any writer will recognise. And I’m right there with Joan Wlider (Kathleen Turner) in Romancing the Stone, celebrating finishing her novel alone with her cat in a flat devoid of food or clean clothes. Wonder Boys Michael Douglas is tormented by secondbookitis, terrified of drawing a line under an increasingly wordy manuscript.
But one of my favourite films about writing was My Brilliant Career. Based in a 1901 Australian novel, it’s a coming of age story about Sybylla who is woed by various suitors but in the end rejects them all in order to write. The book was written by Miles Franklin when she herself was still a teenager herself.