Danny Boyle (born in 1956) is one of our most talented and versatile filmmakers. He made Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, 127 Hours, and he won the Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire.
Here are five quotes he has shared over the years that will help you with your writing!
1. It’s a good place when all you have is hope and not expectations.
Danny Boyle is oh so right about this one. When it comes to your writing life, having hope is always a better place to be than having specific expectations for what’s going to happen next. When you’re writing your latest short story or novel, you should hope for success of course, you should hope for the world, but expectations can drag you down rather quickly, and they can also drag down the quality of your writing.
You should be focused first and foremost on the work. The story, the characters, the themes, the prose — those are the elements that matter. While you’re writing, you should also have hope for what could be, for what likely might be. But don’t necessarily expect anything. Because when those expectations don’t come, you might feel bad… and you might not write anytime soon. So hope, always. Don’t expect.
2. To be [an artist], you have to lead. You have to be psychotic in your desire to do something. People always like the easy route. You have to push very hard to get something unusual, something different.
This is probably my favorite Danny Boyle quote. Because it’s so true — you have to be psychotic in your desire to write, especially when it comes to writing a novel. To be a successful writer, you can’t just go the easy route. You can’t write a little bit here and there, not finish projects, never send anything out. You have to be strong. You will be rejected often. You will be dismissed like you’re nothing, like you’re nobody.
And when it comes to your original ideas, you have to push hard to get it out there to people when it’s done. If your latest novel doesn’t fit into a box that people can easily grasp, you’re going to need to work even harder to make that novel sparkle with greatness and then get it to the right people who can make your dream come to fruition.
3. If you take a loud pride in anything, people will rightly shoot you down.
I say again, you need to get your novel to the right people. And even if gets to the people it should, still be prepared to get shot down, especially if you’re overly prideful about your writing. This has definitely happened to me before. Where I almost oversold certain projects to the point where people who might have been interested in it shot me down and moved onto the next. You don’t want to be overly prideful to the point where you appear arrogant.
But you need to definitely have pride in the work that you do. Even if you query 100 agents with your latest novel and they all reject it, that doesn’t mean you give up and go cry in your bedroom for the next two weeks. Go back and do another draft. Look for more agents who might respond to it. Have pride in your work. Be loud about it, and no matter how many people shoot you down, remember that all you need is that one yes.
4. Always changing genres, making very different films is a good idea. It’s a way of making yourself feel vulnerable again, getting back to that innocence. As is working within a circumspect budget.
Now it is a little different to be a film director than a novelist for this reason — audiences will often follow a film director into different genres, while readers often will not follow a writer into different genres. Look at Danny Boyle. He’s made a horror film, a thriller, a comedy, a space movie, a children’s movie, an action film. I mean, he’s done almost every genre there is. As a writer though, if you bounce around to different genres, you’ll likely confuse your readers and lose them well before your next book is released. I mean, think about it — can you name a single popular author who, under the same name, releases books in vastly different genres? You do absolutely want to stick to one genre if you can and keep growing in it and taking chances in it for years and years.
Having said all that, I do think it is absolutely vital to take a chance in different genres from time to time. And if you don’t want to do it in your novels (for good reason), do it in your short fiction! If you write one specific kind of way in your novels, take two or three weeks a year and write a short story in a completely different genre, point-of-view, voice, style.
You don’t want to get stale in your writing. You don’t want to constantly repeat yourself. Take a chance here and there, and it will make your writing grow considerably.
5. That survival instinct, that will to live, that need to get back to life again, is more powerful than any consideration of taste, decency, politeness, manners, civility. Anything. It’s such a powerful force.
You can take this quote in a few different directions. An obvious one is that one of the most compelling stories to write are about characters who need to survive, who have to find the will to live and get back to life again. Whether it’s a thriller where someone is literally on death’s door, or a drama where someone has figuratively gone to Hell and needs help in coming back to life.
But I also relate this quote to the life of the writer. If you want to be successful in this trade, you need to be in it for the long haul… and you need to constantly have the will to survive. You can’t give up after your first few rejections. You can’t give up if a few of your novels go nowhere. You can’t give up if three or four years go by and you haven’t made a dime. If it’s what you love, you have to keep going no matter what.
That survival instinct when it comes to your passion, your career, is absolutely a powerful force. Never let it go!