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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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( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 27th, 2011 07:01 pm (UTC)
"Buddy the Elf! What's your favorite color?"

Love that movie. And if you missed the Mark Twain award ceremony for Will Ferrel on PBS, try to catch it. The man truly is inspiring.

Dec. 27th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
"Elves stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup."

I'll look for that ceremony - sounds great!

Edited at 2011-12-28 12:03 am (UTC)
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Dec. 28th, 2011 12:03 am (UTC)
"SANTA! Oh my god, I know him!"
Dec. 27th, 2011 11:29 pm (UTC)
Kelly, I have to thank you for this! I was here earlier today and your words resonated with me. I was feeling not-so-brave about my project and knew I needed to get back to work. So, with your wise words in my head, I went to my ms and worked with COMMITMENT. I told myself there was no point in working on that chapter unless I was fully committed to doing my very best. And guess what? I finished the chapter and feel quite good about today's work. Now I'm headed into the next chapter with a fully committed mind-set.

You are of the awesome.

Dec. 28th, 2011 12:07 am (UTC)
To quote Walter's secretary (Amy Sedaris): You just made my day.

I'm so glad to hear that you're moving along!
Dec. 28th, 2011 12:04 am (UTC)
Hey Kelly - wow! I didn't realize all that was going on in your life. *hugs* (It's been forever since I've gotten on my friends' pages on LJ.) And, I miss a lot on FB! Anyway - I love your aspiration! Commitment is so important! I'll be cheering you on! (and trying to stay committed myself!)
Dec. 28th, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
It's been a very busy year, and a lot of it has happened off-screen, if you know what I mean. But it's been a good year, despite some less-than-good stuff.
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Dec. 28th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
You're welcome, Joyce. And your writing is always so research-intensive, that hearing it's even harder than anything else you've done kind of boggles my mind!
Dec. 28th, 2011 01:52 am (UTC)
Good thoughts indeed. (((((hugs)))))
Dec. 28th, 2011 01:53 am (UTC)
... and I resolve to try harder not to be an Angry Elf. ;o)
Dec. 28th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
While you're at it, try not to be a cotton-headed ninny-muggins either.
Dec. 28th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
Dec. 28th, 2011 01:55 am (UTC)
Kelly, you are so wise. Wishing you the best as we all bustle around and try to commit as well as you've so often been able to do. Cheers for renewed efforts.
Dec. 28th, 2011 04:40 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jeannine. I've been enjoying reading your Facebook updates about your work (and your holidays).
Dec. 28th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
OK, I'm actually NOT a big Will Ferrell fan (except for those cheerleader skits!), but I loved your post. And it's so true--the actor or artist who is only willing to make a fool of himself while winking at the audience to say, "I'm really cool--I just do this for laughs," totally misses the point. That commitment is key. Thanks for reminding me--and Happy New Year!
Dec. 28th, 2011 04:41 am (UTC)
You simply must try STRANGER THAN FICTION. Because it also has Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Dustin Hoffman.
Dec. 28th, 2011 03:50 am (UTC)
I think that's wonderful, and I will do the same. :)
Dec. 28th, 2011 04:41 am (UTC)
I love having company!
Dec. 28th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, not even waiting for the new year. I like that. Go Kelly!
Dec. 28th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
Silly Lorraine - what kind of commitment would I be making if I put it off?
Dec. 28th, 2011 01:08 pm (UTC)
I think you know I loathe ELF and almost anything Will Ferrell does (!) but I love reading your take on his commitment. Great perspective for me!
Dec. 28th, 2011 02:35 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed the post in spite of your distaste for Will Ferrell. (Have you seen Stranger Than Fiction? It's so good!)
Dec. 28th, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
Is there any chance I could like it if it has Will Ferrell in it? :)
Dec. 29th, 2011 12:44 am (UTC)
I suppose that if you have a visceral response to him for some reason, then perhaps not. If it's merely bias, then I'd encourage you to try to get past it - the film is fabulous.
Dec. 30th, 2011 01:12 pm (UTC)
I loved your post on commitment, especially as it relates to Will Ferrell's portrayal of Buddy the Elf. Makes me want to watch the movie again. I am so sorry to hear about your divorce; I didn't realize you were going through this. Sending many wishes for joy and peace and lots of fun adventures in 2012. And writing. Lots of writing.
Dec. 30th, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
Will Ferrell really does commit to his roles, regardless of how ridiculous the characters are, but Buddy the Elf is one of the clearest examples of it (in part because the character doesn't annoy me, whereas Ron Burgundy TOTALLY annoys me).

With respect to the divorce - it's for the best, and was amicable, and things in my life are brighter than before, so that is all good. Wishing all good things for you in 2012, too - including lots of writing.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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