Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Gilmore and the Three P's of Writing

Happy Gilmore? Who’s that? Shame on you! It is only the greatest comedy movie of all times. Rent it immediately and ENJOY (I recommend the edited version). And what are the three P’s of writing, you ask? Since I just made them up, let me tell you…Practice, Persistence and Patience. (Persistence and Patience may seem like the same thing, but its not…because I said so)

Happy Gilmore Summary:

As a (fictional) freak of nature, Happy Gilmore was blessed with the talent to hit a golf ball REALLY far, and he exploited that talent all the way to earning a spot on the PGA tour, winning hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy his grandmother a house, and even to doing television commercials for Subway. Whacking the golf ball really hard was a natural gift. Happy simply stepped up to the tee, whacked the ball, and amazing things happened.

Despite the strength of Happy’s long drives, his putting game was abysmal. This failure held him back from finding the success he dreamed of. Even though he had a tremendous gift, it was not enough. He was required to turn his putting weakness into a strength. At first his putting was so bad that it took him 7 putts to get his ball into the hole even though he was able to get on the green in one drive. On the next hole, he teed up and hit a hole-in-one on a par 4. His comment after hitting the hole-in-one… “Wow, that was so much easier than putting. I should just try to do that every time.”

Writing requires Practice-

Wouldn’t it be nice if every time we sat down to write, the words flowed through our fingertips into the keyboard inspiring the awe of our posterity, like Happy’s hole-in-one. Like Happy and golf, we may have some natural talents for writing. Maybe our talent is so huge in areas of character development and plotting that it compensates for serious weaknesses in areas of writing dialogue, pacing, or weak vocabulary. Unfortunately, for most of us this kind of tremendous talent that allows us to do things better than everyone else, simply by virtue of our existence, is a farcical dream. Writing requires effort and practice.

Just as Happy learned that he must practice putting to win, so must we look past our strengths to practice on our weaknesses to make us a well-rounded player…I mean author.

Writing requires Persistence-

When Happy joined the PGA tour, he set a personal goal to win enough money to buy back his grandmother’s house at auction. For the first few tournaments, he cashed in the paltry checks he earned with his last place tournament finishes, but he quickly realized he would not be able to earn the money he needed for his grandmother’s house. Happy was determined to accomplish his goal so he adjusted his approach.

Sometimes as writers we set grand goals we are not able to achieve. Would we all like to sell thousands of books and become a New York Times Best Sellers? Of course. Is it going to happen with our first manuscript? It’s possible, but not likely. Sometimes we set goals and don’t realize that they are unrealistic. As first time authors do we really have any idea what to expect from the publishing, marketing and sales processes? Not really. Just like Happy, we may need to reevaluate our goals. We should set reasonable, attainable goals and then persist until we accomplish them. Then we set new, higher, grander goals and persist until we achieve those.

Writing requires Patience-

The process of writing, editing, editing, editing, editing, shopping a manuscript around to publishers and agents, waiting for a response, waiting a little longer, re-editing and finally production, seems to take FOREVER. Seriously, can the process be any slower? I doubt it. Having been through this process one and a half times so far (yes, I’m still a greeny), I have learned that the writing and publishing process requires extreme patience. (My wife tells me that this is my way of practicing to turn my weakness into a strength- We’ll see) Everything about the writing process requires patience. From the 20th rewrite of a chapter to letting the manuscript sit for a couple of months so we can look at it again with fresh eyes, to waiting for responses from the publisher, to getting rejected and starting the process over. Patience friends…patience.

Poor Happy Gilmore is a bit like me. He lacks patience. When his putt won’t go in the hole, he loses his cool and chucks his golf club into the lake. When he is heckled because of his horrible putting, he approaches the hecklers and beats the snot out of them. At one point, he even loses his patience with Bob Barker—“Who won that fight anyway?” The point is Happy was required to exercise patience and self-control to avoid being thrown off the PGA tour so that he could accomplish his goal. Likewise, I must practice patience and self-control to avoid contacting my publisher while I wait for a response to my query.

Come on! Hurry Up! Where’s the contract! Give it to me now! That approach didn’t work well for Happy, and it won’t work well for writers either. We simply have to accept that some things are out of our control and may take a while…a while…a while…a while. Sorry, I was in a dazed stupor and didn’t recognize that the record was skipping.

Since we must be patient, we may as well practice while we wait so that we can persevere to meet our ultimate writing goals. For most of us, it will take time to earn the success we dream of, if we ever succeed in such a grand manner at all. The great thing is, whether we become the next Stephanie Myers or Brandon Mull, or not, if we practice, persevere and are patient in our efforts, we will become winners—men and women of strong moral character.


  1. My hubby and I love Happy Gilmore!!
    I love how you tied this into writing. I wish you the best of luck in this tedious process!
    Just tap it in. Tappity, tap, tap, tap. :)

  2. The first time I saw Happy Gilmore I laughed so hard I cried, repeatedly. What I took away from the movie? So much. The most important? If you lose your hand to a crocodile, don't make a new one out of wood. (It makes me laugh just thinking about Happy breaking the fingers off over and over.) And if I'm having a hard time I can always think of a little person on a stick horse to make me feel better.

  3. Call me crazy, but Happy Gilmore actually inspired me to start playing golf. Now, I didn't exactly go the same route as him, but I did wind up getting a golf degree. Who would have thought a lighthearted comedy would influence my future so much?