Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. – Doris Lessing

Go forth into the unknown, explore the caves of your unconscious, fear not your “dark side,” find the gold.

— Robin Hoffman (@AuthorAlchemy)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rocky Balboa's Speech to Writers

IN THE MOVIE Rocky Balboa, Rocky's son Robert is unhappy about living in his father’s shadow.

In a street scene outside of Rocky’s “famous retired boxer” restaurant, Robert Balboa tries to discourage his aging father from resurrecting his boxing career because of the embarrassing publicity this will invite.

Up to this point, Rocky has been treading gingerly with his son, hoping to rekindle their former closeness. But when his son tries to snuff out his dream of fighting again, the worm turns and Rocky delivers a blistering speech where he says, in part:
“ . . . it ain't about how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth.” *
Although the moviegoer part of me was busy congratulating Rocky on delivering the rebuke (especially when you know this speech will turn his son's attitude around), the other part of me was experiencing it on a very personal basis—as if *I* was the target for this lesson.

As a writer subject to (sometimes dramatic) dips in my levels of self belief, I found myself wishing I could keep a clip of this scene on my desktop and replay it at critical moments. The bigness of spirit with which Sylvester Stallone delivers these lines is undeniable. He may be just a dumb boxer who can barely speak, but he has finally recontacted that wild creature deep inside of him—the one that just wants to be who he is.

And he's not going to let anybody, not even his son, tell him to stuff that creature back into mothballs.

This conflict felt intensely close to home for me, albeit internalized. After experiencing several glorious creative breakthroughs the day before, in a familiar, subconscious “payback” (for I don't know what) I had crashed down from my state of bliss and was feeling like a creative scumbag.

This speech was exactly what I needed to hear and I very gratefully let myself be yanked up by the bootstraps. I went to bed marveling at the unquenchable spirit of Rocky Balboa and woke up to a sunny Sunday morning and the mood to write.

It didn't matter what I wrote, I just wanted to have the singular feeling of stretching out that unquenchable part of who I am: a writer.

Warning: Plot Spoiler

In this, the final movie in the Rocky series, Rocky Balboa does not win the big fight. He does not get to unseat the current heavyweight champion. But he's so thrilled to be back doing what he loves, and so happy to give it all he's got and put in a decent fight, he can finally feel at peace with himself and put some old ghosts to bed.

* See the rest of the excerpted dialogue from this scene at Wikipedia



Sunflower Ranch said...

Great essay! Rocky got it right! It would be nice to have him in a little clip, handy on the desktop for inspiration when you hit that brick wall. Centering is a good exercise, too. You did -- "who am I?" "I am a writer." That's all you need to keep telling yourself. You know the ups and downs, the breakthroughs, the elation, and also the rejection and the despair of those periods of non-creativity that pop up at the worst possible time. Thanks again for your thoughts and keep motivating all of us!! :)

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting on my blog! ~ Milli