What Writers Can Learn From “Slumdog Millionaire”

Race to Tibet by Sophie SchillerSophie Schiller and I have been friends for more than two years now, chatting back and forth on email and Facebook, sharing thoughts on writing and life, even politics from time to time. She’s the author of Race to Tibet and Transfer  Day. Sophie has written an article about the writing life – a great companion piece to last week’s post Writing Is Like No Other Career – and has graciously agreed to share it. Many thanks, Sophie!

What Writers Can Learn From “Slumdog Millionaire” by Sophie Schiller

As a writer, I envy people who work in teams. Working as a member of a team is empowering. By collaborating with others, the individual worker becomes a part of something greater, and when they succeed, their success is shared collaboratively. A writer’s success, if he ever experiences any, is one-sided and can never really be shared, making it somewhat hollow.

The team naturally benefits from synergy, the combined efforts that every member brings to the table, causing the team to become greater than the sum of its individual members. But most writers don’t have the option of working as a team. The work of a writer is lonely, frustrating, and many times isolating. By definition, writers work as an individual in a world he has created of his own imagination. There are many days when the writer can’t rely on his sense of humor, because it’s non-existent. There are days he can’t rely on his strength, because it has ebbed. There will be days when he can’t rely on his natural optimism because it has run out.

On days when my positive thinking and physical strength have evaporated, when I have lost my self-confidence and when the spark of inspiration has dried up, I watch an inspiring video that never fails to move me. On YouTube, there is a video that captures the moment when “Slumdog Millionaire” wins Oscar for Best Picture. Each time I watch that video, I cry. The camaraderie, the teamwork, the collaborative effort between the writers, the producers, the director, the actors, the technicians—each one of the hundreds of people who worked on the movie—is right there on that stage. Their mutual effort has paid off stunningly by garnering them the industry’s highest prize and honors.

My happiness for them overwhelms me because when the underdog wins, all of us win. When “Slumdog Millionaire” won the Oscar, they were the odd man out, the underdog, but they broke new ground in film making at a time when nobody believed in them and nobody wanted to give them a chance. Each and every day of his  working life, a writer must do the same. When he sits down at his computer and types, the writer has to believe he is breaking new ground. He must write with the idea that he is creating something new, worthwhile, and monumental.

In the words of “Slumdog Millionaire’s” Producer, Christian Colson: “If you have passion and belief, truly anything is possible.” Dear fellow writers, heed the words of Christian Colson. Believe in yourself and keep your passion for writing alive. But above all, keep writing. Sometimes the strongest team is a team of one.

Watch the video here:

Sophie Schiller researching her next novel
Sophie Schiller researching her next novel

Sophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ and grew up in the West Indies. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Her most recent novel is Race to Tibet, a thrilling tale of high-altitude adventure and survival set in the Roof of the World. She is currently at work on a historical thriller set in the Caribbean.

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5 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for posting this, Mary! I always get a good cry when I watch that video and his speech is so moving!

  2. I set up the Allrighters to help overcome the loneliness of writing. The Allrighters, including my characters, keep me going. Yes Christian Colson is right: “If you have passion and belief, truly anything is possible.” as shown in many other walks of life.

  3. What an inspiring post. I love this line: “He must write with the idea that he is creating something new, worthwhile, and monumental.” That’s a high bar — but then we get “Slumdog Millionaire.”

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Jeannine! That’s so kind of you. I wrote this essay while I was in the midst of writing my first novel and the words kind of poured out of me. I’m so happy that more people are able to read it now as a result of Mary’s blog.

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