Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On commitment

I have a confession to make: I haven't been all that committed to the writing process of late. I could bore you with explanations as to why that's so, and they include valid reasons like health issues, my divorce, S leaving for college, etc., but part of it has been a lack of commitment.

I was reminded last week how important it is to be committed to what you're doing, and the thing that reminded me of it was my annual watching of the movie Elf starring Will Ferrell. Really, this could apply to any of his screen work, whether it's his Funny or Die piece where he's dealing with a potty-mouthed toddler landlord, his cheerleader skits on SNL, Ron Burgundy, Ricky Bobby, or any of those other goofy characters, or even (or perhaps especially) Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction, but what reminded me of the need for commitment was Elf, and, in particular, this scene:





He commits 100% to being a guy raised as an Elf. A guy raised someplace where everyone is happy, and Santa is real, and work is fun. A guy who doesn't understand human culture, really - at least not yet. A guy who thinks Christmas and Santa are the Best Things Ever. Will Ferrell inhabits the character (all of his characters, really) so entirely that he never winks at the camera (in reality or even impliedly). He doesn't hesitate. When Will Ferrell played Buddy the Elf, he was really and truly Buddy the Elf. His excitement over Santa is palpable, just as in a later scene, when a guy in a Santa suit shows up who is not really Santa, his outrage and disgust are genuine, and you can sense they are both bone-deep.

Will Ferrell's commitment to becoming whatever character he's playing - no matter how off-beat or quirky - is inspiring to me. And it's reminded me that when I sit down to write, I need to do it with actual commitment. This means a few different things. First, that I need to make the commitment to sit down and do the work. Second, that when I sit down to do the work, I need to be willing to really and truly go wherever it is that I need to go for that particular piece. If it's a serious poem about real emotions, I need to be willing to open that particular vein. If it's a picture book, I need to be willing to commit to playing with the text and the ideas, and to be willing to commit to allowing my inner 4-year old to run wild. If it's my YA novel, I need to commit to writing the emotions and actions down in a way that will communicate to an eventual reader precisely what the character feels and what they are doing or sensing.

So today, I'm really glad for Will Ferrell's performance as Buddy the Elf. And I aspire to be more committed - I'm not even going to wait for the new year.


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