Which is rather fitting, as Getting Ugly is a pretty wild ride. Mike would be the first to tell you there’s no über-complicated, Inceptionesque plot at work in Getting Ugly, just a lot of badass people going to work, all trying to get the man known as Big Ugly. Easier said than done, as you don’t get the moniker “Big Ugly” because you have a charming personality. So, give a read to Mike’s thoughts on that old chestnut of writing advice, write what you know, then consider if today might warrant a little Getting Ugly.
Clowns, Aimless Babble and Snot-Slinging Drunk
“Write what you know.”
I remember hearing this horrific advice years ago. If you were raised by wolves, kicked a smack habit at age seven, roamed the globe as a circus clown, then graduated Yale before serving as a SEAL, then yes, absolutely, write what you know. If you’re like a lot of us, raised in a lower to upper middle class home, stumbled through life before ending up in a shitty job?
Do. Not. Write. What. You. Know.
What you know is what everybody else knows, and it’s not interesting. Nothing personal, I’m in the same boat, but it’s true. Have you ever been trapped somewhere and some dude felt the need to babble aimlessly about his lawn? You smile and nod, maybe sprinkle around a few words like “Really?” or “I didn’t know that” while inside your skull you’re pleading for the end of all things. That guy? He’s telling the story of what he knows.
Now if you take what you know and you inject a healthy dose of interesting then maybe you’ve got something. Perhaps an unhealthy dose. Hell, drown that bullshit you know in some flat-out fucking fascinating sauce and stand back. Something cool will come out of it. Or it won’t, but I promise it’s a more interesting story than what it was.
It’s not to say that everybody doesn’t have some great stories from high school, their 20’s, their friends, family, that time they got snot-slinging drunk in Chicago, that time with that girl and that thing with that pissed off boyfriend and the half-nude chase that ensued down Las Vegas Blvd…you get it.
Take those stories, boil them down to the good parts and fill in the gaps with made up crap that will make them better, more fun, more meaningful, more interesting. We do it all the time. Have you ever told someone a story that didn’t happen exactly the way it really happened?
Did you really say that to that person that pissed you off, or are you reliving the moment the way you wish it happened? Well, writing lets you relive a lot of life the way you wish you could have. It allows you to create a world where the best and worst of you can live, breathe, multiply and come crashing down in a fireball on top of poor unsuspecting villagers’ heads.
When you write, you get asked a lot about where you get your ideas. Short answer is “I don’t know.” Most of the time it’s flashes of scenes I imagine while driving to the store to get toilet paper or (as cliché as it sounds) while in the shower or whatever. I view my creative process as collecting, mixing and hoping.
I collect all the things I’ve lived, seen and heard about. The stories from my life, the stories from friends and family, movies, books or bits of things from half of a magazine article I read in a waiting room or whatever I saw on the web yesterday. I take all those bits and pieces dump them in a blender, slop in a bucket of my own twisted pretzel brain and push the red button. Then I hope what comes out is worth someone’s time and hard earned dollars.
I think a lot folk get paralyzed by the idea of writing something that’s not great or not perfect. I get it, I do, nobody wants to suck horribly. I also get (and know for a fact) that I will never pen the greatest novel or movie ever written. I just won’t, and I’ll let you off the hook…you probably won’t either. Not to say you shouldn’t try to do your best work, but don’t let the idea that you need to write the piss out of Hemingway be some kind of mental anchor.
Also keep in mind…its 2013, people.
Think of all the books, movies, TV shows, Internet shit and all the other stories that have been pushed out into society over the last 50 plus years. Coming up with something that isn’t a direct copy of any of that stuff is hard enough, but trying to write something that is better than all of that…good luck. Not to mention, if you asked 100 people what’s the best, you’ll probably get 108 different answers. So, please, take it easy on yourself and just try to write something that you don’t hate. Start there. If you don’t like what you’re writing, or at least find it interesting, then it’s over before it started.
I’ve never done 99.9% of what I’ve written about. If I did I’d be dead, in prison or locked up in an earth toned room drooling from the medication and the beatings. And if I only wrote about what I know you’d hang yourself before ever allowing your eyes to glance at something with Mike McCrary on the cover.
So I’ll make you a deal. I won’t write about sitting on a coach watching the fifth round of the NFL draft if you won’t write about what it was like when that VP from Regional Operations threw you under the bus and sent a disrespectful email that made you so mad that you typed a reply email in red font and explanation points but deleted it before you sent it because you’re better than that.