Lesson #276: Going the distance.


Back at it again.

Hi there. If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you know how I feel about grabbing every opportunity you can, listening to everyone you come across, and learning from what everyone has to say.

So today, Geoff LaTulippe, JMU alum and the screenwriter of the hit movie Going the Distance starring Justin Long and Drew Barrymore, came to speak at JMU. I admittedly skipped class. Like, when was this ever going to happen again?

I’ll keep it short for you. He was awesome. He was down to earth, honest, hilarious passionate, and real. He didn’t beat around the bush, but he was kind, helpful, and positive too.

Here are some things I learned from him that can apply to anyone, even outside of the creative field. But for my writers and aspiring writers—this one’s especially for you.

1. He never thought what he is doing was even a possibility for him.

But it’s real. And he’s doing it.

Take note.

2. Collaborate with others.

Two or three brains think way better than one.

3. The two worst things you can do?

1) Follow a trend because it’s a trend.

2) Not tell a story because you think it’s already been told. (You, my friend, may have just missed out on creating the best story of your life.)

4. Writers block is real.

To do:

1) Drink.

2) Walk away, whether that’s physically or mentally. Go to a different scene. Go to a different room. Come back later.

5. If you aren’t writing stories that you really want to tell, then you won’t tell them well.

Point blank.

6. Have thick skin.

Or else you’re kind of sort of dead meat.

7. It’s okay to be a lot of things.

They say you need to find your niche, but here’s the real deal: Be (or get) great at one thing, but it is never ever ever bad to be good at many. Sell all your abilities, make yourself marketable, just don’t spread yourself too thin.

8. You have to learn to just not care if someone likes it or not.*

*…But there are rules.

When they seriously don’t like it?

1) And they’re paying you?

Ask, “How can I fix it?”

2) They’re not paying you, but you respect them and their opinion?

….Ask, “How can I fix it?”

3) They’re not paying you, you respect them, but you have to go with your gut—you really like what you’re doing.

Say “Thank you.” Keep going. Someone is going to love it.

4) You keep getting the same message from different people over and over?


9. You can survive here. You can survive there. You can survive anywhere.

Any place you go is just a city with houses and buildings. Put your two feet on the ground and go. Don’t psyche yourself out. You’ll figure things out.

10. Pull inspiration from everywhere.

Your friends. Strangers. Actual people. Actual events. That fight you had? Save what you wish you would have said.

Write all that shit down.

And lastly,

11. Storytelling is for everyone.

Make some noise.

Geoff LaTulippe did script coverage for four and a half years, and he’s been at screenwriting for a total of seven.

His response?

“I’ve been at this for seven years, and I’m only just beginning.”

Yeah, take that in for a second.

I think I’m in love with what he said about this.

People expect to get things right away. They don’t expect to work hard, or have to learn. But I think Geoff is as successful as he is because he knows these things. He knew he had to do all of these things, and then did them. He realizes that where he is now is still only the beginning. It’s always the beginning, because we’re always learning.

The greatest part is, when he said it, it was literally so casual. It wasn’t like he was trying to make a statement, or freak anyone out, or scare everyone in the room out of the industry. And that fascinated me. It didn’t seem to deter him. It didn’t deter me either. It was actually inspiring.

My roommate Morgan came home upset tonight. She had just had dinner with a few graduating graduate students from her major, and they told her grad school has been the most draining, intense—possibly even wasted—four years of their lives. All their time in the past four years has been devoted strictly to school.

Honestly, any other day I wouldn’t have known what the hell to say.

But today I knew exactly what she needed to hear.

I told her about Geoff LaTulippe. How it’s been seven years for him, and he says he’s only just beginning. He’s only scratching the surface. And I told her it was the same for her.

What, four years of your life working hard? That’s nothing. You’re going to lose four years of your life devoted to studying something you love, and then you’re going to go out into the world with the rest of your life ahead of you, doing what you want because you worked hard to get there. Four years of your life—and it will only just be the beginning. I told her, “Heck, you have at least another 30 or 40 years on top of that.” And she smiled.

So if you learned anything from this?

Work hard. Put in time. Keep learning. Be inspired. Go where you need to be to make it happen. Get stuck. Get unstuck. Get stuck again. Keep going.

This life is yours.

You just have to go the distance.

Day 276.


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