will smith is somehow the motivating factor in my writing

I’ve been corresponding for a couple years now, on and off, with another blogger, she lives in New York, who’s been doing her own thousand movie project except hers is more ambitious. While I’m watching and writing about the 1,001 movies in just the 13th edition of the List, she’s watching and writing about all 1,200+ movies across all 20-odd editions (each year the editors swap a few old titles for new ones).

            Not only that: she’s on my tail, just twenty or thirty movies behind me.

            I’m extremely competitive when it comes to tests of endurance and, without a touch of animosity, I suddenly felt, when is aw how close behind me she is, that I really need to get moving.

            There was a stretch of time like three or four years ago (I think it mighta coincided with my parents’ divorce?) where I would binge those horrible cheesy testosterone-fueled motivational videos on YouTube—the thing where it’s all these chopped-up motivational speeches accompanying footage of, like, dramatic scenes from movies, sports, clips of athletes in a gym or on a track. I’m cringing to even think about.

            But once upon a time, as a full adult, they did the job, they got me in the right headspace for a workout or, the strange phenomenon I definitely picked up during my parents’ divorce, these ten-, thirteen-, eighteen-mile walks I’d go on over the course of three or five hours.

            And there was a soundbite that would play in some of these videos wherein Will Smith (who’s apparently a motivational speaker) says:

            The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things you got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die…You’re not going to out-work me.

Will Smith (why do I feel ridiculous writing that attribution?)

            That quote has it sown bravado, and in some lights it’s just as cringey as a lot of the other stuff, but it rang my bell back then and, of all the many hours of nonsensical bro-dude motivational speeches I listened to back then, it’s the only passage that’s stayed with me.

ein Mut, Jonas Burgert

            Cuz I really do believe that, if I fail, it’s my fault. Even with my white whale, publishing—yes, there are gatekeepers in the world of publishing, people with certain interests, certain concerns, certain needs, and they can let you in or they can keep you out. But you can also, as an author, make yourself irresistible. You can develop a podcast that generates a following, you can engage with a legion of people on Twitter and build your following that way. You can vlog, blog—there are a million things you can do in order to create an audience of your own whose attention you could then leverage for a book deal. Or, if traditional publishing really won’t have you, there’s the self-publishing route, and avenues for publicizing the book that you’ve gone and produced on your own.

            And that’s the approach I’m taking here. In terms of watching movies off the List, I’m a couple hundred titles ahead of where I am with the essays, which is unacceptable. I’ve been working on this Project for almost four years now and I’ve been neglecting the aspect it was built upon: writing.

            Right now, thanks to the quarantine, I’ve got an opportunity I’ll probably never have again: an opportunity to surge forward, to make a full-time job of the Project, spend my days writing and posting, writing and posting.

            So I plan to take advantage of it.

3 comments

    • This competitiveness is a blessing and a curse and focused more on just making sure that I stay productive rather than “coming out on top” or anything like that. Things are tedious but seemingly safe down here in Miami. From what I”m seeing on the news, it looks like you’re in the real zone of concern. How are you?

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  • I am EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY lucky – I got a job that was just a couple blocks’ walk away from my house, and that took me out of the subway system right before things started to go down. It is also considered an “essential business” so there is stability there. I also had an overstuffed pantry anyway, so grocery shopping wasn’t anything I had to do frequently.

    I’m in kind of a quiet corner of the city – I walk to work and I only see about 2-3 people on the sidewalk even when things are normal, so social distancing isn’t an issue. I have had to start wearing a mask when I walk there and back, but other than it having started to smell weird that’s not been too much of a hassle.

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