Five Things Writers can learn from Rocky

I met this guy named Rocky when I was in college. At Virginia Beach, actually, carrying around his guitar singing to whoever would listen. A free soul being himself, something that most people have a hard time doing. I knew I’d never forget him—he was so, so different—in a good way. So last year when I learned about Blood Brother, this year’s first place for the Sundance Festival, I wasn’t surprised that Rocky was the main character. I knew he’d make an impact one day. Honestly I thought he’d be in the music industry…but film is just as cool.

Real quick: Blood Brother is a documentary. In it, Rocky leaves everything to help children infected with HIV living in an orphanage in India. The film is incredible. I mean, incredible. At first, I was scared to watch the film because I didn’t want to feel saddened by children suffering and dying of AIDS. But I know so many of the special people who put this big story together. I know the directors wife really well along with her family. My husband lived with them for a while. So I had to support them— I had to, they all worked extremely hard on this project.

Being a writer, I’m always looking at everything through that lens. What can I learn? How will this make me a better writer? Naturally, I asked myself these questions after watching the movie. At one point in the film Rocky says, “I think some people think I’m crazy.” I don’t. Rocky taught me a lot through this documentary, and I can’t cover it all, but here are five things that I learned as a writer.

1. Heart- This is so important. Writers gotta have a lot of heart! Others may say passion is key. Passion alone can be a wrecking ball, so singularly focused on a goal and self-driven, and tragically running over anyone that gets in the way. And that’s not always a good thing. Heart, on the flip side, is a mix of passion and humility. Writers need to care about the readers and other writers. But it always troubles me seeing authors bash each other on reviews. I’m not discouraging honest reviews. However, if they remember an actual human being wrote the work they’re critiquing, it would probably help them filter mean, nasty comments.

2. Love- Need I say more? Well, just a little. Every story is about love. Even your story. Don’t forget what you love about writing. Even when it gets crazy-hard and you hate your work and think no one really cares. Remember why you fell in love with writing, and hold on to it when you get a negative review, have to start over, or when your book doesn’t sell.

3. Inspiration- Find this, and if you lose it, search for it until you find it again.  Inspiration is the magic; it’s powerful enough to separate the talented from the phenomenal.

4. Take Risks- It’s okay. Go for it—take the plunge! Be different, not for the sake of being different, but do what works best for your story. Even if it’s never been done. Ask any successful writer, ask any successful person for that matter, and they all take risks. Risks are how dreams become reality.

5. Ownership- In the movie Rocky does everything in the orphanage from cleaning gutters to cleaning and caring for children’s wounds. He “owned” his role in the orphanage. And whether you’re going traditional or self-publishing, take ownership of your work. No one cares about your characters like you do. Seriously, no one’s going to mull over that perfect word you used in a scene that took you days to decide on. You’ll also need to pay attention to all aspects of the business. From marketing to editing. Do whatever needs to be done because at the end of it all, it’s your name, your work, and your story that’s building a reputation.

What are you learning about being a writer?