Walt Disney and Inspiration
By Michael Melville
As an author, we find inspiration in all sorts of places and from all sorts of people. It’s not always from authors either, truthfully I am rarely inspired by other authors and what they do as authors (sorry Hugh Howey I don’t worship you). As a reader, however, I AM inspired by their stories if that makes sense. It takes a lot for me to be positively influenced as an author when I am having a bad day, bad week or weeks when it comes to writing. This is how it’s been as of late.
As I said in my GoFundMe campaign this little business of mine, being a novelist is me seeing my dream come true. Me following through with what my gut says is right. Sometimes though it’s not so easy. Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in a sea of other writers trapped in a bigger sea that is the publishing industry which is being ravaged by multiple angry hurricanes called the internet.
The other day I began watching the PBS documentary about Walt Disney for the 4th or 5th time. He did what he thought was right, put out the story he thought was best and did it the way he wanted to no matter what the critics thought. Did he take chances? Yes, massive ones in fact. Sometimes it panned out and sometimes it didn’t but he never gave up. Even when the business of movie making and Hollywood began sucking the joy out of his life. If only he lived to see what his brand has become and how people still love those movies he made decades ago. The two-part documentary is really amazing and I highly suggest seeing it.
Listen, I’m not dumb. I know Walt Disney wasn’t Jesus. I know he may have had his short coming’s and perhaps what some call naivety when it came to social issues and politics and I acknowledge that. But still I look up to the man. He was a “glass is half full kind of guy” and sometimes there is nothing wrong with that…sometimes the world needs that despite itself. Plenty of people focus on the problems and the negativity in the world. Sometimes it’s nice when someone comes along and gives us the ability to escape from that and that’s what Walt did I think. When my writers brain and heart gets foggy I look toward some of the most influential people the world has known and he is one of them. We owe more to Walt Disney as artists and consumers than what we realize. His stories and movies, even the nature documentaries changed my life and inspired me at a very young age.
When he was around 50 he took a vacation. It was a train trip across the country to clear his mind and chase away the stress and problems that had been plaguing him. He needed to refocus. His company became different than the one he started, he felt it was losing its soul and with that he was losing a part of himself. Because of labor issues, money issues, WW2, and a few other things the purity of making animated movies began to dwindle. That trip turned him around and brought a new joy and inspiration to his life and what happened next can only be described as fantastic. I can sort of relate to the first and hope for the second.
There have been times as an author with how complex and ever changing the writing business is where I feel lost. Sometimes I get so caught up in the business BS it makes me forget why I started writing in the first damn place. I did it because I could. Because others said I couldn’t or shouldn’t and I did it because I always loved writing and telling stories. With Running Northwest, there was so much joy and furious passion infused in that first novel of mine that I can only say it could be my Snow White. I say that because Walt Disney considered Snow White, his first animated feature film to be the best thing he had ever done with Mary Poppins coming a close second.
I loved writing All the Roads Home but I was constantly feeling like the cloud of reviews and marketing was hanging over my head and inhibiting my mojo while getting in the way of the most important part. I was so distracted that it took twice as long to write that novel as what I should have needed even with me taking my time. All the Roads Home just came out in January.
Now that I am writing The Diner, Book 2 of the Oregon Series it’s starting to feel the same way but even more. The business is getting in the way of the art and my storytelling…. it’s getting in the way of the joy. When I sit down to write, instead of thinking about The Diner, Johnathan (my main character) and the love of his life I think about Tweeting promos for ATRH, blogging, retweeting, marketing and reading articles about the business and not actually writing. I’m still new at this, I’m still working out the How too’s or at least, the. How I want too’s.
It’s April third and in all honesty, I could have had and perhaps should have had The Diner done by now since it’s half written already. At least a first and maybe second draft of it but it’s not and it’s not even close.
Sometimes it’s my own fault for allowing myself to get sidetracked. Sometimes I can’t control the hundred or so story concepts and characters I have floating around in my head and I just sit and write those. The other day I wrote a 5,000-word character sketch (in two hours) for a female lead who popped into my head while I was trying to sleep the night before. The sketch has nothing to do with The Diner or the book after that. In fact, her character has nothing to do with any planned story. Interestingly enough that’s how Running Northwest started back when it was called something else. It started from a character “sketch” about a guy who eventually became Thomas James.
What would Walt do?
What do I do?
Like Walt, I worry about my legacy. I worry about what people will think of me, what I have done and my flaws long after I’m gone. I worry about what they will think of my writing, my books and my worlds I created long after I lose the ability to create them and write about them. I worry about how I can get people to read them and like them. I worry about what my son will think of me when he owns all that I have made after my time on this earth is over…. whatever that amounts to. I’m not saying I want to be Walt Disney because men like that are rare. What I want though is his daringness to dream, to dream big and never lose the courage to go after those dreams. I want the unfettered belief in myself and my ideas that he had.
I think Walt would say…