Monday, June 19, 2017

5 Movies Writers Can Watch When Discouraged

It's tough being a writer these days. Although the gates were thrown wide open with the onset of independent publishing--thereby removing the "gatekeepers" and allowing thousands of writers to achieve their dream of becoming published authors, it also came with a downside.

It allowed thousands more writers to become published authors.

The advantage became the disadvantage. A two-edged sword indeed. Now that the marketplace is flooded with millions of books by independent authors, it's very difficult to get readers' attention among so many choices and titles. "Hey! Over here! Pick me! Pick me!" often gets drowned out in the constant background roar of book promotion.

So yeah, many of my peers have been feeling despondent about their careers and the general state of the industry of late. For most of us, the theme of "never give up, never surrender!" needs an occasional boost in the form of an inspiring story or message to buoy our spirits.

Today I'd like to share five that I'd recommend if you're looking for that inspirational shot in the arm. Probably for good reason, three of the five involve space or science fiction. :)


1. Secretariat

This story is so much more than a story about a legendary horse, it's about the woman who made sure he had every shot at becoming a champion--while literally taking on all challengers. It's as much about the bravery and stick-to-it-iveness of Penny Chenery Tweedy as it is about winning the Triple Crown. In 1973, no horse had won a Triple Crown in 25 years and every contender sired by the great Bold Ruler had failed. No one believed Secretariat could do it--except Penny. In spite of family dramas, financial disasters and practically living in airports for three years, she never gave up on her dream...and the outcome, as everyone now knows, was history.

Buzzline: "Hey, Kentucky! You're about to see something you ain't never even seen before!" --Secretariat's groom shouting to the empty grandstands in the early morning hours of Kentucky Derby day.

The message: Put your heart into it and strive for your goals. Sometimes the world is blackest just before the dawn.

Secretariat advanced poster
issued by Disney Studios

2. Contact

This film was based on a novel written by one of my personal science heroes, Carl Sagan. Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway, after being inspired to explore astronomy by her late father, dedicates her life to searching the stars for extraterrestrial life. But her peers and superiors ridicule her work and tell her she is "wasting her life." In spite of many obstacles, pitfalls and funding struggles, it's Ellie's team who many years later is working at the VLA in New Mexico when the first intelligent extraterrestrial signal is detected. Suddenly her project is in the limelight and everyone wants a piece of the greatest event in human history, including one former boss who maneuvers to claim the glory for himself. After Ellie's team eventually deciphers the message, she's given a shot at her lifelong dream...making contact with extraterrestrial beings in an extraordinary way. But the question of "did she or didn't she?" actually make contact is left an open-ended question for the viewer to decide.

Buzzline: "Because if it's just's a terrible waste of space."

The message: Believe in your dreams and have faith in yourself. Those who doubt you haven't shared your experiences.


3. Apollo 13

My heroes have always been astronauts, so I had to include this one. This fact-based story tells the story of three astronauts on the Apollo 13 Mission who survived an explosion in space, and how they and their Earth-bound team at NASA worked together to find solutions that turned certain tragedy into an historic, heroic achievement.

Buzzline: "Failure is not an option!"

The message: Work through your troubles and setbacks and never give up, or you may never realize how close you are to success.


4.  The Man from Snowy River
(or the sequel, Return to Snowy River)

With its unusual story about struggles in the Australian "wild west," The Man from Snowy River is about believing in yourself and recognizing your unique talents and abilities. Sometimes the least likely soul is the only one who can get the job done, because he believes in his own potential to do the seemingly impossible. Either story carries this message, and though my best advice would be to watch them in succession, in my humble opinion Return to Snowy River is one of those very rare movie sequels that builds and improves on the original. The two together were dubbed by Horse Nation as The Greatest Horse Movie Ever Made.

Buzzline: Not a line, but this movie made the French horn fanfare famous!

The message: Believe in your ability and your resolve to get the job done. No one can be you better than you.

DVD cover produced by 20th Century Fox
The Man from Snowy River was based on an old poem about the legendary rider. Here a shortened version of the poem is read paired with scenes from the movie. It's pretty inspiring by itself, and you get a taste of those legendary French horns.

5. The Martian

Another inspiring astronaut's tale, this one also makes the cut! After a freak accident, Mark Watney is left for dead on the planet Mars after his fellow astronauts execute an emergency launch. Now he's faced with having to survive for four years until any hope of possible rescue can arrive, while facing five sobering possibilities: Die from thirst, habitat failure, accident or starvation...or find a way to survive. His unique skill set soon comes in to play when Watney declares he's going to "science the sh*t" out of the problem. In spite of impossible odds, Watney's sheer determination and know-how helps him find new ways of surviving each day as it comes.

The Buzzline: "In your face, Neil Armstrong!"

The message: Mark Watney probably said it best. "Work the problem. Then the next. And the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to go home." Take each difficulty as it comes and find solutions to help you reach your goals.

The Martian Extended Edition
blu-ray cover by 20th Century Fox

Have a great week.


  1. Thanks, Pauline. I can't tell you how many times I've turned to one of these movies to find my inspiration once more. :)

  2. Great reminder about Contact - I think my daughter would enjoy this one. I'm trying to inspire her about science and how creative it can be. (I think it may be working, as for her electives next year in addition to "visual design" she selected "science in art and creativity" and "coding 1.")

  3. I think Contact would be an excellent inspiration for any child interested in the sciences (as well as carrying the message about having faith in yourself). I have a favorite line from the movie when Ellie, as a girl, says, "I'm going to need a bigger antenna." And in the next scene she's a scientist overlooking the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.

  4. I LOVED Apollo 13. And The Martian. And of course, I knew the poem The Man from Snowy River well before the movie. (The only part of the poem I didn't like - and I know Paterson wrote it over a hundred years ago - was the fact he used spurs on his little mountain horse.

    But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
    He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;

    But that's just me - animal lover, space nut.

    I'll add one more movie - Phar Lap. He's up there with Secretariat, a cheap, ordinary thoroughbred who beat everything day after day, and became the soul of a nation during the Great Depression. In the same style, I'll add Sea biscuit.

  5. Phar Lap did come to mind, Greta (love that one--great movie!) definitely an inspiration, but the sad ending was why it didn't make the cut. Much like Ruffian--another superb movie that is very hard to watch to its conclusion. Sea Biscuit is also a good one that carries a great message about hope and second chances.

    And I do agree with you on the part about the spurs in the Snowy River poem. Definitely made me cringe. They tried to stay pretty true to the poem as far as action and dialogue in the movie, but I'm so glad they didn't follow it to the letter in the script. No bloody Denny, if you please! He was as much a hero as the Man himself.


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