Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's all good advice if you know how to use it

The problem with advice - as far as I can tell - is that for every bit of wit and wisdom there is a countervailing bit of equal wit and wisdom. Maybe its some type of yin and yang thing or maybe its because -like in the Matrix - the equation must balance so as Neo grows stronger so does Agent Smith.

A perfect example stares at me from the first page of Stephen King's On Writing -

The first line says "Honesty is the best policy" - attributed to Miguel de Cervantes.

The next line says "Liar's prosper" - attributed to anonymous (hmmm... that's interesting in and of itself)

So should I lie or should I be honest or does it depend if I think I'm going to get caught - I think that's in the subtext somewhere.


Mr. King is not the only one to notice this - I believe George Carlin did a bit on it, and most of us deal with it every single day.

"Good things come to those who wait."

But...

"The early bird catches the worm."

So did he get to the worm hole early and then wait around to catch it like a teenager (or 40 year old man) trying to get tickets to the next Star Wars movie. And did the worm just come out and pop into his mouth when the sun rose. Cause that's what I get out of melding these two together.

And what about this.

"Love conquers all."

but...

We do have a 58% divorce rate in this country so maybe "Love conquers... and then moves on to conquer someone else."

Of course bits of advice can compete with The Judge in Caddyshack - played by the incomparable Ted Knight who said - "It's easy to grin when your ship has come in and you've got the stock market beat. But the man who's worthwhile is the man who can smile when his pants are too tight in the seat." I really have no idea what it means but it sounds pretty cool.

Of course he also told the caddy who wanted the scholarship so he could get a better job in life that "the world needs ditch diggers too". So don't know if that helps anyone.

And of course Ty - Chevy Chase's character in the same movie - asked Noonan if he "did drugs" - to which Noonan said "Every day" - to which Ty said "Good."

And of course Bill Murry espoused much advice on how to rid the world of gophers throughout the movie - I remember something about falling back and obtaining superior firepower - so if you need advice Caddyshack might be a good place to start.

But finally - and honestly - the best advice I ever heard came from Kirk Douglas - he didn't give it to me - he told his son Michael Douglass - who also didn't tell me but did tell someone on Entertainment Tonight. And the gist of Kirk's advice --which applies to writing as much as to anything else in life is this. "Do the best job you can when working on something - and whatever happens after that: Fu#% it."

In this business - in this life there is so much we can't control. You can make yourself crazy trying to figure out how to control the outcome - which you can't control anyway no matter how hard you scheme. And all that thinking and worrying and trying to figure all the angles drains the energy out of the work you're trying to do in the first place. Basically do your part - and whatever the hell happens - happens. But once you stop worrying about what you cant control and focus on what you can - you do a much better job on what's in front of you anyway.

6 comments:

Meredith Cole said...

Great advice Graham! Thanks for passing on Kirk's words of wisdom. You're right--they totally apply to writing.

Gabi said...

So Alfred E. Newman's 'What Me Worry?' wasn't satire, it was inciteful. Interesting.

Then again whenever I hear 'Love Conquers All' I think about the Huns. Yin and yang and read the fine print.

Great post.

Kelli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelli Stanley said...

Great advice Graham (and Kirk) ... as writers we'd better relish the control we have over our words, since we have precious little control over anything else!

Hmm ... now I've got to go rewatch Caddyshack. Or maybe Stripes ...

Graham Brown said...

Thanks guys - and yes who knew so much wisdome could come from Mad Magazine and the mind of Bill Murray.

Gary Phillips said...

Yes, what Kirk said!