What I Learned about Writing from (the perhaps mythical version of) Christopher Walken

I once heard a story that Christopher Walken never rejects a role he’s offered, no matter how bad. The story related that Christopher Walken believes you can learn from every role, even the bad ones.

I tried to corroborate this story this morning and only found a small mention in this article, that says, “Walken accepts any job offer that isn’t ‘too awful,’ per a humble work ethic fueled not by love of fame, glory or money … but by fear of his own capacity to ‘sit around and eat spaghetti.'” Which proves two things: 1) What my mother always said, about believing half of what you see and none of what you hear is probably correct (but can I believe it?) and 2) Spaghetti is the most terrifying pasta. (It’s very tentacle-like.)

BUT! Let’s pretend my story is true (it’s like fiction!). The idea that even bad roles offer opportunity for growth has merit. I suggest that writers could learn from “bad” stories. For instance, I (inadvertently) took a hiatus from creative writing during college (except a brief stint my sophomore year, when I took Creative Writing 101 (or something like that) and wrote a few chapters of what is now my thesis). I was still writing, just papers. Lots of them. Mostly in Italian (my minor). After I graduated, I wanted to write again, but couldn’t make it stick. I even bought a prompt book and read the delightful Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I felt inspired, but no story ideas came.

Finally, 9 months later, I told my sister about a dream I’d had the night before, filled with Greeks and wars and all that romantic stuff. She said I should write it. So I did. And let me tell you what: IT’S TERRIBLE. But I’m so glad I wrote it. Why? Because Almost 3 years later, I’m nearly done with my MFA and I’ve got one full draft of a book and another partial under my belt. I consider myself a writer, whereas before it was only an interest of mine. That story literally changed the course of my life.

Sometimes you just need to write. It doesn’t matter what it is. Write a character sketch. Describe your kitchen at its very messiest. Turn Christopher Walken into a superhero and have him save the Queen of England from an invasion of spaghetti-like aliens. If it’s terrible, laugh at it and be grateful you were able to get something down today. Because that’s what really matters. All words you write are important, even the ones you ultimately delete.

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6 thoughts on “What I Learned about Writing from (the perhaps mythical version of) Christopher Walken

  1. Great post, but that partial-book-under-your-belt thing seems most uncomfortable and sorta creeps me out. It’s not what I would expect to find there, and really pits aside the entire ‘inny-outy’ argument. I’m just sayin’.

  2. “Turn Christopher Walken into a superhero…”

    Wait… he wasn’t already?
    Haha, but really, this just proves that I will stop and read anything with “Christopher Walken” in the title. I really liked this post–it goes along with this thing I heard once. Something along the lines of, “If it sucks, make it better.” A story may start off awful, and may have an awful middle and an awful ending, but you learn why it was awful and what you can do to make it better. So, really, you’re only hurting yourself if you’re not working on anything at all.

    • Exactly!
      After doing all of that Christopher Walken research, I now have a rather larger platonic crush on him. He’s one celebrity I would love to meet (whereas when I was a child, I was terrified of him and I’d only seen him in Sarah, Plain and Tall).
      Thanks for stopping by my home on the interwebz!

  3. One of those things I always hear “them” say is that you have to write a million words of garbage before you write anything good. Why not have fun with it? One of my writing buddies and I tried our hand at writing the world’s most terrible fantasy novel for a while. Mary Sues, cliched destinies, you name the trope and it was in there, in horrible purple prose. But you know what? Not only was it hilarious to read afterward, it really purged us of some bad writing habits. Once you’re trying to use a bad technique, you notice it more in your normal writing and can avoid it, if only out of revulsion!

    • I’ll bet that was fun! I think sometimes we aspiring (and published too, probably–I can only imagine) authors get so caught up in the need to be the best we can that we forget why we write–because it’s fun! I love writing complete crap every now and then, and laughing at every word. It’s actually quite refreshing!

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