Five Writing Secrets I Learned From “Groundhog Day”

One of the great funny movies of all time, “Groundhog Day” tells the story of weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) as he lives the same day over and over…and over…and over again. He’s a cocky son-of-a-gun, which is where many of today’s secrets can be found:

1) Being a writer requires a certain amount of confidence. Day after day you try to transform 26 letters of the alphabet into complex ideas and engaging stories. Anyone who thinks they can accomplish this is either crazy, or, well, someone like Phil:

Phil: I’m a god.
Rita: You’re God?
Phil: I’m a god. I’m not *the* God… I don’t think.

On second thought, you probably shouldn’t think you’re a god. You might be in for a let down. But in order to continue as a writer you do need a measure of confidence.

2) If you feel stuck, try something different.

Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
Ralph : That about sums it up for me.

Change up your point-of-view, your setting, your characters. Try writing in your favorite writer’s voice. Try writing in the voice of a writer you despise (either because you don’t like their writing or their popularity drives you mad with jealousy). Whatever it is, try something different.

3) Sometimes people won’t like what you’ve written. Sometimes even you won’t like what you’ve written. It’s inevitable. One way to maintain the confidence we talked about in #1 is to remember this:

Phil: People like blood sausage too, people are morons.

People generally have terrible taste. Look at the most popular television shows or singers. Think about the most popular food places in the world (McDonalds and Subway). Did you know that NASCAR is the world’s most attended sport?

4) In your new found super-confidence, be prepared to adjust your approach:

Phil: You weren’t in broadcasting or journalism?
Rita: Uh unh. Believe it or not, I studied 19th-century French poetry.
Phil: [laughs] What a waste of time! I mean, for someone else that would be an incredible waste of time. It’s so bold of you to choose that. It’s incredible; you must have been a very very strong person.

5) In the same way that Bill Murray had to relive Groundhog Day a million and two times until he got it just right, be prepared to keep trying until the piece of writing is what it should be:

* * * * *

Similar posts include:

Five Writing Secrets I Learned From “Dumb and Dumber”

Five Writing Secrets I Learned From “The Princess Bride”

Five Writing Secrets I Learned From “Airplane”

9 Replies to “Five Writing Secrets I Learned From “Groundhog Day””

  1. This post is a bevy of desirables.

    The point of confidence and mild cockiness creates a wonderful platform of humor, which you consistently choose excellent examples. The use of less-quoted lines amplifies your points.

    I had no idea NASCAR was the most attended sport. My fiancee comes form that kind of background. I promised her that I would go with her to the races some time.

    I’m curious:

    How have you used other people’s tastes to deliver something they wanted, laying down your preferences?

    1. This is a difficult balance to maintain. The point I actually took from the movie was not to take other people’s tastes into consideration because people have poor taste. Or perhaps not to allow initial disinterest in one’s writing to become discouraging, and to keep writing.

      But any writer knows how much they want the approval and acceptance (and adoration) of an audience. So perhaps it’s about trying many different forms and approaches within your area of strength and preference, and seeing which one catches on?

      1. I like the emphasis on disallowing people’s disinterest to breed discouragement. (That’s a lot of dis-es!)

        Sorry to change the point, but what do you think about installing something like Livefyre (what Ken Mueller has on his WP site). This would allow me to be notified of follow-ups like your comment above and also let me auto login like Facebooks. I think it would help your comments and engagement. Disqus helped on my blog.

        1. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m currently in the middle of a blog remodel, so I’ll keep your ideas in mind.

  2. I thought it was very clever of you to post about Groundhog Day, which is one of my favorites. But then I noticed that you also have an entry for The Princess Bride. Inconceivable!! Super genius.

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