Getting inspired at the movies.

I’m a moviegoer, in that I find pleasure in actively going to the cinema to experiencing a film. The dim, cavernous room, the bombastic surround sound speakers, the wide silver screen stretched out before me. I’m that person you find in the second row, screen filling their entire sight line and then some peripheral vision line, too, completely immersed. Last night, my fiancée and I caught a screening (my second) of 3:10 to Yuma – a great flick from a favorite director, James Mangold (CopLand), and a favorite writer, Elmore Leonard (Out of Sight, Jackie Brown). If it wasn’t so late at night by the time the film was over, I would have done what I normally do:

Write immediately after seeing a good movie.

When I walk out of the theater at the end of a good film, I feel inspired. I want to write a good story seemingly more than I ever have before. Ideas race through my mind. A zen-like connection with creativity rocks my cranium after witnessing how a grand display of creativity can affect someone. That’s when I head to the coffee shop or back home and write. If it’s derivative of what I just saw, that’s fine. If it’s completely different, that’s fine, too. If it’s good, all the better. The point is, it’s inspired, and when writers complain they lack solid moments of inspiration to get them started, I would be a fool to let these solid moment fade away.

Five tips to making this work for you:

1. Go to the movies alone.

Seeing a movie with someone is the great American social ritual, right? Not if you want to write. There’s a society-induced stigma about going to the movies alone, but I love it. No one’s asking me questions about what just happened, I’m not waiting in the snapping-cold winds for someone to show up at the theater, and I’m able to immerse myself in the world of the film without wondering if my buddy is having a good time or if the woman I’m with wants to kiss later (they usually do, ’cause I’m the man). Think of it this way: if you go to the movies alone, you won’t have to have an awkward, “Well, it was really fun, but I’ve chosen the craft of writing over time spent with you. Look, you can sit there and sip a latte while I’m writing, but just keep yer big yapper shut!” moment with your companion. I mean, really, don’t you already have enough of those?

2. Give yourself a few hours to write after the movie.

This is the trick. Plan your movie-going experience so you can write afterward. This is a two-hour block you set aside instead of going to Barnes & Noble or meeting up with friends or whatever else you’re trying to cram into a day. You’re a writer – cram writing into the day. This is why I’m a big fan of that matinee; it leaves the late afternoon free to let the creative juices flow.

3. Be creative on the way to the car.

There is no creativity on/off switch, so why wouldn’t you be thinking about what you want to write as soon as you step out of the theater and walk to you car? This is the magical transition time when you’re either going to let the muse who’s massaging your shoulders take you to a good, creative place or you’re just gonna go home and eat some fat-free frozen yogurt. Don’t let this brief period of three or four minutes slip by without using them to their fullest potential.

4. Know where you want to write.

Don’t waste time walking or driving around searching for a writing venue. Know where the nearest coffee shop or library or low-pressure cafe is. Know if your home office or desk is clean and open to helping you be creative. You’re in the creative zone, and you have to get those ideas down on paper as soon as possible.

5.Don’t force it.

Just because you set yourself up for success doesn’t mean the lightning will strike every time. That’s okay; don’t sweat it. Even if you don’t come up with anything good during this writing time, you gave it a shot. And for many young writers, sitting down to write is the hardest part of the writing process. Give yourself kudos for sitting down and trying and promise yourself you’ll go for it again.

Of course, I have no advice about what to do after you see a terrible film. Maybe the fat-free frozen yogurt option.


[tags]writing inspiration, go to movies alone, 3:10 to Yuma, don’t force it, creative process[/tags]

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