Guillermo Del Toro (born in 1964) is the Oscar-winning director of The Shape of Water, as well as The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.
Here are three of his awesome quotes to inspire your writing today!
1. To me, art and storytelling serve primal, spiritual functions in my daily life. Whether I’m telling a bedtime story to my kids or trying to mount a movie or write a short story or a novel, I take it very seriously.
I don’t remember a lot of Oscar speeches, but one I always call back to is Steven Soderbergh’s after he won for his direction of Traffic. He talked about how the world would be unlivable without art, and I believe the same thing, too. Art is not a way to pass the time. Art, as Del Toro says, serve primal, spiritual functions in our lives. It certainly does for me.
For example, I can’t really start my day without reading for thirty to forty minutes. Reading feeds my mind, feeds my soul. And then I can never have a fully successful day if I don’t do a little bit of writing, whatever it may be. Whether it’s for Medium or for my latest novel project or for a new short story or a for a new poem, or all four, this part of my day is super important to me.
Whatever process you have when it comes to your writing, always make sure to take it seriously. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. You should have loads of fun. But also be serious about it. Make sure you realize how important the work is that you’re doing each and every day.
2. Every project that you write, it goes through years of hard work. We write a screenplay; we design. Then you submit those and the budget, and it’s out of your hands.
I don’t think there are too many writers who create a fantastic first draft of a novel that then goes through only a little bit of editing before it reaches your local bookstore. If your name is Stephen King or James Patterson, maybe. But even for the most acclaimed and prolific of authors who release books every year, I’d guess even they spend lots and lots of time on their projects. Go through many months, even years, of hard work before the project is finished.
This month I’m currently working on the tenth draft of a novel I began in February of 2017. Last March I finished the sixteenth draft — yep, the sixteenth — of a novel I first wrote in December 2015. Sometimes writing projects take years of hard work, that’s just the way it is. As Tom Hanks says in A League of Their Own, the hard is what makes it great. If it were easy, everyone would write a book, write a screenplay. And most people probably could write a first draft if they put their mind to it.
The hard work really comes in revision. When you need to sit down at your desk every day and slowly mold your writing project into something amazing. Some writers are able to do this fast, in just another draft or two. I usually need six drafts, eight drafts, ten drafts, sometimes more, to find the best possible version of my story. And you know what, that’s okay!
3. I’d be happy living underneath a freeway if it meant I got to make this movie.
This is a quote not pulled anywhere online but actually from my own memory of hearing Guillermo Del Toro speak! I was super lucky to attend an early screening of Pan’s Labyrinth in 2006, where Del Toro delivered a Q&A after the film. I enjoyed the work he’d done before, but to this day Pan’s Labyrinth is still his masterpiece, such an audacious and spectacular fantasy horror film. He probably spoke for thirty minutes or longer, but this is the one thing he said that still resonates in my mind thirteen years later.
He talked about how hard it was to make Pan’s Labyrinth, the years of blood and sweat and tears it took for a studio to green-light it. And at one point he discussed how by the time the movie got made he didn’t have a lot of money, but that he didn’t care one bit. Because the most important thing in his world at that time was making that movie, and so it didn’t matter if he had little money in the bank, didn’t care if he had to live under a freeway for awhile. He got to direct his film. And what an incredible film it is.
Now this is not to say that you should abandon your job and suck your bank account dry in order to write your newest masterpiece. But lean into the essence of Del Toro’s quote. Lean into the belief you have for your latest project the same way he believed in his. Stay inside to work on a gorgeous Saturday in order to dedicate time to your writing. Find little ways to save money so you can spend some more time on your art.
At the end of the day, if you believe in something strongly, which you should, do what you need to do to make sure it happens and that it becomes everything you know in your heart it can be. Give it everything you’ve got!