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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Life (and writing) lessons from "What About Bob?" by Kaye Spencer

One of my favorite movies is Bill Murray's What About Bob? While presented in a tongue-in-cheek manner as only Bill Murray can do, beneath the goofiness, this movie has important messages about pushing past our fears and insecurities in order to embrace what life has to offer. For writers, these messages are particularly relevant.

Here are five life (writing) messages we can take away from this movie. My thoughts are first, with the corresponding movie quote in bold italics.

1. We should all have a mantra that keeps us grounded.
    (Writers must engage in positive self-talk to maintain the "want to write" not the "have to write".)

    I feel good. I feel great. I feel wonderful.

2. Generally speaking, people are people are people.
    (Writers, aspiring to multi-published, struggle with the same issues: creative dry spells, costs of marketing, time spent on promotion, surviving edits, etc.)

    I have problems the same as you.

3. In the business of day-to-day living, we tend to dwell on negatives rather than celebrate positives.
    (Writing is more than putting pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard. Writing is overwhelmingly mental: thinking, planning, ruminating ideas, staring out the window. Give your “I must reach my daily word count a break, or it will break your creative spirit over time.)

    Take a vacation from your problems.

4. When our problems seem insurmountable, we should step back and just breathe to regain perspective.
    (Writing/Publishing/Marketing/Promoting, to paraphrase Marty Robbins, can seem like “a mountain we may never climb”. Set reasonable, manageable, doable goals.)

    So what you’re telling me is that I’m all tied up steps untie your knots.

5. We tend to complicate the issues in our lives by over-thinking, when the core of the problem is really quite simple and straight-forward.
    (Write. Publish. Repeat.)

    There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't.

So, the next time the Vigilante Riders of Self-Doubt show up in the middle of the night at your metaphorical writing door of insecurity, just remember…

Life and writing are really about just taking one positive Baby Step at a time.

Until next time,

Twitter - @kayespencer


  1. Kaye, I loved this take on the lessons for real life from the movie, "What About Bob?". I have dealt with writer's block head-on and it was a crippling experience. But like most of life's hard lessons, I learned a great deal from it. You just can't force a story. I had to back away from my WIP at the time, do some gardening, and then I took a class in writer's block and procrastination. WB really is tied up with emotions. We're in our heads so much of the time. Isn't it crazy that we most often go to the negatives we feel about ourselves? I crawled out of it by timing my writing time starting at only 10 minutes. If I found I was on a roll, I went with it. Sometimes I was glad when the 10 minutes was up. Word count never works for me. I took the advice of a friend who said, "You have to fall in love with your hero." So, I dug deeply into my character and gave him the attributes he needed for me to really love him. I also found there were other, more internal, reasons for my block. I had to make changes. I changed my publisher to one that suited my type of writing instead of changing my writing to suit what the publisher wanted. I'm going to quit now before I write a novel here. Suffice it to say that this article spoke to me. Thank you, Kaye.

    1. Sarah,

      I understand what you mean by finding the right home for our books. I think that's one reason self-publishing is so attractive. Several of my books languished in No Man's Land with a publisher, and it was with great angst that I finally requested my rights back to them over the past few months. Now these books are languishing on my computer until I have the mental wherewithal to tackle them for the 2nd edition make-over they need (and deserve). If I think about this too much, I bog down in "it's overwhelming", because I also want to write the new stories that are rolling around in my head. So I have to remind myself to take Baby Steps. Thinking in Baby Steps keeps me moving forward. :-)

  2. What we can learn if we only open our eyes and ears and not judge. I believe we all learn subconsciously, we just don't always pay attention to the 'nudges' we get. Your post is a great example of that. Even all the 'bad' books I've read teach something (how not to write that way, but the authors was trying) I can use at some point in my life. Great post and thanks. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

    1. Doris,

      So true, so true. There are messages and life lessons everywhere we look. I think we miss many of them, though, because we live such fast-paced lives and we are bombarded with so much visual and auditory stimuli that it's hard to sort out what is important and what we can let slip on by.

  3. Kaye some great reminders in your blog. In the beginning of my writing journey I did a lot of "If only," thinking. If only a publisher liked my book. If only I got a contract. I was so focused on the If only's that I almost talked myself out of writing another word. Great post! And I dearly love Richard Dryfuss ad Bill Murray.

    1. Barbara,

      I still do the "what ifs" and the "if onlys", and I did go through a dry spell of not writing anything because I'd lost confidence that I could even write a simple sentence with subject/verb agreement. Sometimes, I'm my own worst enemy, but I've managed to put that behind me. Now I mostly struggle with juggling writing time with life's demands... as we all do. *grin*

  4. Kaye,
    A great post! It's been awhile since I've seen 'What About Bob?'. Will have to check it out.

    1. Kristy,

      Thanks! I enjoy movies that are more than they seem at first viewing (books, too). Movies with layers (like Shrek said: ogres are like onions--they have layers). The old Bugs Bunny cartoons had layers. The superficial layer was entertainment for kids. Then there are deeper layers for adults (innuendo, references to classical music, sarcasm, and so on). The movie Chocolat is another one with layers.

  5. I have never seen this movie. I must watch it now. Great post, Kaye. I have real problems being able to take a break from my troubles. Sometimes I just get to the point where they feel like they're suffocating me and really closing in. I've always been a worrier. I must watch this movie and see what I can take from it!

  6. Cheryl,

    It's definitely a "watch at least two times" movie. The first time is for entertainment. The second (or more) is when the subtle messages become evident. The Bill Murray character (Bob) is lonely, and loneliness often plagues the characters in the stories I write. I'm sure that's why I see what I do beneath the silliness in this movie.