Daniel Day-Lewis’ 4 Tips for Writers Who Aspire to Greatness

Daniel Day-Lewis’ 4 Tips for Writers Who Aspire to Greatness

Do you ever wonder how long it will take you to make it as a writer?

If you care about your craft, you probably think about this a lot. Sometimes it may even keep you up at night.

Of course, if you write, you’re already a writer. But I’m talking beyond that. I’m talking about moving people and having an audience that supports your ideas.

Writing is a tough (perhaps the toughest) creative endeavor. It takes many years to hone your skills to move people with words alone. Years of publishing posts you think are good… only to realize that you’re being ignored.

But despite all this, you’re committed. You’ve invested in building a blog and learning the multitude of tools that support and enhance your work. And you’ve accepted that success won’t happen overnight.

While facing this harsh reality, what can you do to nurture the artist within, to prevent yourself from going insane during this long, daunting journey, to remove fear from your writing and think clearly?

The answer: craftsmanship. Treating the pursuit of mastery not as a distant finish line of 10,000 hours, but something you will do until your last breath. Allowing it to transform you on every level.

We are in an amazing moment. Writing has never held more potential. Writing has never had more power. Writing has become the ultimate craft for those willing to plant their butt in the chair and expose their heart and soul.

To share stories, adventures and adversity.

To move people.

What an actor taught me about craftsmanship

I was sitting in an empty movie theater on a Wednesday afternoon, ready to watch Steven Spielberg’s latest movie, “Lincoln.”

I was expecting to be entertained, even educated.

But when the credits rolled, I wasn’t thinking about American history or the war or what it was like to live in those times.

I was thinking about Daniel Day-Lewis’ craftsmanship; his ability to totally inhabit a character and profoundly move an audience. Later, it didn’t surprise me to learn that he has three Oscars, 91 other awards and 33 nominations.

I was inspired to dig deeper. I read interviews on his mindset, his dedication to his craft, his personality on and off stage. I wanted to know why his performances fascinated me.

In the end I came to the conclusion that his attitude toward his craft is what fuels his devotion and brings vivid life to his characters; it’s the inner principle that guides him in every role.

Simply put: he treats his craft with an unmatched, deep reverence. He’s a living and breathing example of a true pro.

As a writer, it is imperative that you love and master your craft because it’s the essential tool you’ll need to survive in one of the largest growing ecosystems: the internet.

Craftsmanship is the key to thriving in that environment and if you’re looking for a role model it would be hard to beat Daniel Day-Lewis. And while he’s an actor not a writer, everyone serious about their writing can learn valuable lessons from the way he approaches his craft.

1. Never break character

In “My Left Foot” (1989), Daniel Day-Lewis plays a profoundly disabled Irish writer and painter, Christy Brown. During filming he transformed himself into this character to the point that the crew had to feed him during lunch breaks and carry him between sets in his wheelchair. His first day on set, he was wheeled in by the director, causing the crew to be in shock. Someone was ready to work…

In “The Last of the Mohicans” (1992), he lived on the Alabama expanse so he could immerse himself in the wilderness and live exactly as his character, Hawkeye, would have, even hunting for himself. Michael Mann, the director, said: “If he didn’t shoot it, he didn’t eat it.”

For “In The Name of the Father” (1993), he stayed up for three straight days and nights just for one scene: an interrogation for a wrongly accused man involved in the IRA bombing. (How crazy would you be if you stayed up for three days?)

In May 2012, Steven Spielberg received a tape recorder in the mail. He turned it on and heard a voice reciting Shakespeare and the Second Inaugural Address. “It was a beautiful voice” he said. “I wanted that voice to read me a book.”

The voice was Abraham Lincoln’s. And it had taken Daniel Day-Lewis a year of research to find it.

“He had Lincoln so embedded in his psyche, in his soul, in his mind, that I would come to work in the morning and Lincoln would sit behind his desk, and we would begin,” Spielberg said.

This isn’t the work of an amateur. This is a work of a professional – more than a quarter of a century of honing an arsenal of skills, learning to transform his voice, mold his physique, and breathe life into history’s characters.

The Analysis: You are a writer from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. You observe, analyze, connect dots, explore, unravel, and ask questions. Most of all, you have to be interesting.

What Daniel Day-Lewis did to prepare for these roles was unthinkable, but also fascinating. How daunting it must be to confine yourself willingly to a wheelchair or put yourself at the mercy of the Alabama expanse, only eating what you kill? But more important, how interesting it is to do such a thing, and what amazing stories and ideas might be gathered from that experience?

Everywhere you go, every person you meet, every story you hear can become the seed for your next post or project. Real writers – the ones who would be writing even if the world was ending – never take a day off. They write on birthdays, holidays, even sick days.

If you ever find yourself staring off into space, thinking deeply, and someone asks you, “What are you doing?” feel free to tell them you’re working.

Because you are.

2. Embrace the unknown

Just look at the wildly different kinds of characters Daniel Day-Lewis has played:

  • A disabled Irish writer and painter
  • A colonial warrior
  • A man wrongly accused of an IRA bombing
  • A Protestant nativist in lower Manhattan’s Five Points in 1846
  • An American president fighting the injustice of slavery

He plays each character with elegance, fearlessness, and total commitment. At times, it’s hard to believe that it is actually him we’re watching; he plays the character so well that we can’t help but be immersed in the story and the life of the character.

You know an actor is good when you find yourself thinking “What on earth is this guy like in real life?”

This aura of mystery is a force of its own. It’s power. It keeps the audience on their toes.

The Analysis: As writers, we often pursue one niche, one field to talk about. It makes sense because we want to master that domain; we want to be perceived as an authority, the go-to expert. But at times, this can be self-defeating. We can end up getting too comfortable.

Writing is an ancient art that yields us the power to deliver our ideas, to communicate, and to connect.

So instead of limiting yourself to one outfit, try on different ones. Connect seemingly unrelated dots.

Before I started reading up on Daniel Day-Lewis’ interviews and life, I had no idea I could connect his craftsmanship to writing. But the more I delved into his story, the more I saw the similarities.

As a writer, you must immerse yourself in different subjects. Learn the culture and the language. Challenge yourself and see what your mind is capable of creating. Don’t be stiff. Learn to use different fabrics to weave together a story that will have other writers saying, “I wish I’d thought of that.”

3. The stage is sacred

On the set of  “Lincoln,” Sally Field – the actress who plays Lincoln’s wife – described the set as “hushed and reverent.”

Jared Harris – the actor who played Ulysses S. Grant – said of Day-Lewis in a Time interview, “You don’t say to him, ‘Hey, did you see the referees blow that call during the Packers game?'”

Spielberg admits to calling his lead actor “Mr. President” – not Daniel. He even wore a suit to the set every day – something he never does when directing. The entire crew wore clothes to fit the part, to blend in, to assume the position.

Everyone who was a part of this film knew they were involved in creating something bigger than themselves – an opportunity to recreate history and bring to light the trials and tribulations that Abraham Lincoln had to face, and the story of how he helped shape and build America.

The Analysis: Writing wouldn’t be writing without the procrastination and the excuses. It’s the challenge of overcoming our worst selves when sitting down at a blank page that defines who we are.

But it’s this simple: you waste time on Twitter and Facebook because you didn’t cut off the access that allows you to do so. You didn’t respect the stage.

Instead of cranking out a horrifying (but necessary) draft, you label it “writer’s block” and go and do the dishes. You tweet the world that you’re about to start work, when in reality it’s just another form of procrastination.

What you need to do is treat your stage as sacred, just as Daniel Day-Lewis does. A place where hard work, determination, and unrelenting focus sync together to bring ideas from the depths of your mind to the light of day.

4. Craftsmanship is a journey, not a destination

Daniel Day-Lewis didn’t step straight into the acting scene and start making hit after hit after hit.

In an interview he says: “I became conflicted in my late teens. I imagined an alternative life as a furniture maker. For about a year, I just didn’t know what to do. I did laboring jobs, working in the docks, construction sites.”

But this pattern is all too familiar.

Steven Pressfield drove trucks for a living in his 20s and 30s, and at one point lived at a boarding house that served mental patients.

Stephen King taught English, worked in a library and in an industrial laundry – not to mention collecting a huge pile of rejection slips with a spike going through it.

Hunter S. Thompson got his ass kicked by the Hell’s Angels, was fired from Time for insubordination, and traveled all the way to Puerto Rico for a magazine job … only to find out upon his arrival that the place had folded  (he used his failure as the inspiration for “The Rum Diary.)

The Analysis: Everyone wants a big break – a flood of traffic, a book deal, a crowd of adoring fans. Something to ease the pain of loneliness and validate our efforts. But the truth is, writing is a journey. That one post and that one book will soon be forgotten. That New York Times bestseller? Even that is ephemeral, just like every other bestseller.

What we need to learn is to enjoy the art of writing – realizing that the more we write, the better our thinking becomes, and vice versa. Acknowledge the privilege of being able to voice our idea into a noisy universe and actually have people respond to it, care about it, be moved by it, and share it. Why do we keep searching for miracles when we’re living in one?

As writers we must remind ourselves of one thing: I write because it is who I am. This is my way of communicating, of connecting, of expressing. I don’t know any other way.

When you see dancers move gracefully, it’s because they have found joy in movement. When a singer raises goosebumps on our necks, it’s because her passion reverberates throughout her lyrics, her message. We connect with it at a fundamental level.

If you aren’t willing to commit to the long-haul – the journey – then you must question why you even started writing in the first place. It’s not about the praise and Amazon reviews and the number of tweets your post received. It’s not about writing the next “50 Shades of Grey.” It’s far deeper than that. It’s about changing lives, connecting the unconnected, and making a difference. It’s about storytelling, inspiring others to lead greatly, to communicate clearly when no one else will.

It’s about moving people – because that’s what words do.

Writing requires a ton of vulnerability. That’s scary – but at the very same time, if you can harness it – it’s incredibly exhilarating.

Why craftsmanship is your only option

The world is one big town. When you speak to one person, you are actually speaking to hundreds, possibly thousands.

We are more connected than any other time in history. And luckily for us writers, it has never been a better time to write, to share, to tell a story, to move people.

I know how hard writing is. This business ain’t for the weak. I spent three years being ignored. It wasn’t until I focused on my craftsmanship – what I do and how I can do it better – that I started noticing a difference in the way I was telling a story.

Four years ago, I never read books and never aspired to be a writer. But I put my butt in that chair and I wrote – even if no one was listening. I failed forward – meaning that if I wrote something and no one responded, I wrote another post. I committed to the journey, not the destination.

To date, I’ve written two self-published eBooks that have been downloaded thousands of times, I was picked by Seth Godin to attend his July seminar in 2012, and I wrote a neat manifesto. The other day, I hit my first 1,000 subscribers. I’m becoming good at what I do because I love and respect what I do.  You are capable of doing the same.

In fact, you might be doing it already.

But in order to move your readers, you have to ruthlessly love your craft. You have to respect it. It’s about creating momentum.

Committing to the long haul, delaying instant gratification and realizing that the energy we invest in ourselves and our craft determines the impact that we make as writers. Being heard is not the reward of being a writer, as much as we want to believe that. No, our craftsmanship, our evolving ability to move people with words and stories, is the reward.

Commit. Work hard. Put your heart into it. Put your butt in the chair. Stop apologizing.

And always remember that the respect you desire as a writer is determined by the respect you have for your craft, the work that you put in, and your unwavering devotion to remove fear from your writing and to think clearly.

Now go write. You got this.

About the author: Paul Jun is connecting the dots over at his blog, Motivated Mastery. Be sure to check out a manifesto that he recently created.

108 Comments

  1. Esther
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:21:01

    Wow what a post. My heart rate kept going up and crescendo-ed at the end. I love to write and thank you for this amazing comparison to his acting craft. I will ‘carpe the diem’ : )

    • carol
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:43:26

      Esther I’m right there with you, this really got me fired up in a nice warm, fuzzy way.

  2. Jhalisa
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:25:52

    I am 19 and have been really inspired by this post. I recently decided to create a blog to document my journey to becoming better at my craft, which is fashion design, and I feel like this post is as relevant to me and my situation as it is to the writer’s who the message was really meant for.
    It’s only been a week since I’ve started my blog but already I feel like I am becoming uninspired and quite bored of the entire process. However, after reading this post, I somehow feel re-energized and excited about my journey. I would definitely be utilizing these tips. Thank you!

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:34:14

      Hey, at 19 and already doing that, that’s awesome to hear.

      Writing to learn is an amazing strategy. You don’t have to publish everything. Just write for yourself at first, see if you like it. Play around. Learn to enjoy it, because it will always be hard.

      Also, read a lot. Read everything on fashion, culture, style, etc. That’s where I would start. And then write about it. Express your opinions.

      Best of luck.

  3. Nicolina Zarola
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:44:40

    Thanks so much for this inspiring article. I’m new to the blogging scene and have been going through the ‘is anyone even reading this’ phase. Articles like this keep me going and the comments too. I’ll definitely remember the ‘I’m planting seeds at the moment so I just need to nurture, feed and water!’ Thank you!

  4. Ruxman
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 07:05:24

    “If you ever find yourself staring off into space, thinking deeply, and someone asks you, “What are you doing?” feel free to tell them you’re working.” I look forward to that!

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:20:34

      The best part of the day, I think.

  5. Bel
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 07:42:21

    Wow. I am sure you could hear the click all the way to your office as my brain finally snapped into place. I am a writer. I never realized what courage it took to say those words out loud. Thank you for helping me to see myself and for your deep understanding of the insanity and exhilaration that is writing.

    Thank you.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:16:05

      That means a lot Bel, thanks.

  6. Darlene with BlogBoldly
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 05:55:51

    “I know how hard writing is. This business ain’t for the weak. I spent three years being ignored. It wasn’t until I focused on my craftsmanship – what I do and how I can do it better – that I started noticing a difference in the way I was telling a story.”

    This is just what I needed to hear today.. thank you.

    I was telling my husband the other day that we are like farmers.. we plant the seeds.. we nourish them, and then have to wait for the harvest.

    Sometimes it’s hard to wait for the harvest.. but SO worth it.

    Thanks again. Darlene 🙂

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:40:31

      Great perspective to live by. A tough factor in that is patience. But like you said, SO worth it.

    • Anne Bruce
      Jul 16, 2013 @ 23:52:39

      Paul, this is one of the most eloquent pieces on writing I have ever read. I have written 16 books for the largest publisher in the world–McGraw-Hill/New York. Your words resonated with me when you wrote that writing has never held more potential or power. Truer words were never spoken when you wrote that our evolving ability to move people with words and stories, is the greatest reward. I look forward to following your work more closely.

  7. Mercedes
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 05:57:10

    Hell Yeah!I loved this blog post and I will today try “new outfits” and get out of my writing comfort zone. Thanks for a great post, Paul and Jon.

  8. Anita Cooper
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:02:32

    Thank you, Paul Jun for your inspiring blog post! It really made me think and will definitely be shared.

    Thank you, Jon Morrow for sharing this gem with me!

  9. P.J. Murphy
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:04:51

    As someone who is starting out on this writing journey, this post was amazingly helpful. I love the idea of writing – and when it comes down to it the art of it – but I do need to have a better focus on the craft of it.

    Thanks for posting – I’ll definitely be sharing this!

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:39:37

      Thanks P.J

  10. Greg Philippi
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:13:49

    Eh, I’m going shopping, maybe lay on the beach and count the sand after searching out an earthy cup o’ joe… Oh yeah that’s after I write for at least a half an hour. Any longer without coffee would be like having Thor’s Hammer reign down on my temple multiple times. Okay so the post was well researched, well written and entertaining. I’ll give you that much. LOL Thanks

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:01:41

      I’ll take it!

  11. Amanda
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:34:30

    Thank you! I’m sat here doing anything and everything except writing. I can’t even say I’m practicing my article in my head because… I’m not! I will now head out to my office, put my butt into the chair and get that article written so that I can move onto the next. It’s a new magazine and out of my comfort zone so that is a move forward.

    I’m printing out your article and sticking it to my notice board. Inspiration and motivation – fantastic!

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:32:08

      Thanks Amanda.

      Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve thought up amazing articles in my head. I’ve lost hundreds. I had to develop the habit of carrying around a moleskin AND using my phone, like Evernote.

      And best of luck. I’m sure the article is going to be amazing. Believe it will be, and it will be.

  12. carol
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:49:36

    Paul what a truly wonderful post. Inspiring, encouraging and making a difference for sure. Im reading Why be happy when you can be normal by Jeanette Winterson (she of Oranges are not the only fruit fame) and I just wanted to send this to her as she talks a lot in her new book about being a writer and how it saved her from a crazy childhood and her own madness. For my part I keep stalling (through fear of….failure or success, perhaps both) but I am going to print off your post and keep it with me to galvanise and do what I know I am meant to do….start up a blog and finish my book Get Emotionally Naked. Without being too woo woo am sending you a big virtual hug.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:25:46

      Haha that’s great to hear—go for it, take the opportunity. And thank you 🙂

  13. Kimberly
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:54:38

    This is an amazing post. I cannot believe you started writing only 4 years ago — talk about craftsmanship. Very inspiring.

    Until recently, I was writing all day every day for clients, but when it came to writing for myself, there were lots of excuses, also known as resistance — too busy, too stressed, not enough time, blah, blah, blah. But about 6 weeks ago I recommitted to writing for me. I opened up a blank Word document and started typing. Getting something on paper. Everyday. Even if it’s crap. And lots of times it is, of course.

    But as Stephen King says, simply, “Writers write.” I have that quote on my office wall to remind myself that if I call myself a writer, then I must be writing.

    Like you wisely say, “Commit. Work hard. Put your heart into it. Put your butt in the chair. Stop apologizing.”

    By the way, love your blog, Paul, and I never would have discovered it if not for the post on BBT here. Now it’s on my “daily inspiring reads” list. : )

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:24:46

      Thank you so much Kimberly; I’m humbled by this.

      It’s a pattern for me as well: when I started writing for myself, everything changed; I started learning more, enjoying the process, brainstorming ideas often, etc. There’s many writers who started out by strictly writing for themselves (think Maria Popova and Brain Pickings). Many great books that were never intended for publication turned out to be timeless.

      Also, I think it’s a pattern that writers need something above their desk, a little quote or passage to keep them going. It’s something I’ve been noticing and using, and it helps me greatly.

      • Kimberly
        Jul 11, 2013 @ 18:23:51

        Oh my gosh, I loooove Brain Pickings. I think every writer should read it. : )

  14. Liss Thomas
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:55:38

    Love the references to Daniel Day Lewis. I reluctantly went with my Mother In Law and her friends to see the movie Lincoln. Granted, I knew it would be good since, hello? Steven Spielberg directed it. But Wow, I was blown away and sucked into the era withing two minutes.

    I write and will continue to write. I love the line… If I’m staring out into space and someone asks what I’m doing… I’m working! Exactly!

  15. Trish Sammer Johnston
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 06:59:30

    I wrote “Respect the Stage” on a sheet of paper and hung it above my desk.

    So much to love in this post. I will certainly read it again.

    • Rochelle
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 14:32:08

      Love this idea!

  16. Jimmy Naraine
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 10:04:35

    What a great and well written article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  17. Pat
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 07:09:48

    It is so tempting to be just “good enough” and rest on our laurels rather than to hone our skills to excellence. This article reminds me not to settle, but to keep getting better. Daniel Day-Lewis is a great example and inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:20:17

      It’s the kind of motivation I need daily. Well said, Pat.

  18. Stacie Walker
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 07:23:13

    Bravo, Paul, bravo! I adore Mr. Day-Lewis! The movie “There Will Be Blood” rocks. Love the unique parallel of acting and writing to master craftsmanship.

    To your success,

    Stacie Walker
    Woman in Leadership

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:18:00

      Thanks Stacie, to you as well.

  19. Nancy
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 07:37:11

    Thank you for this wonderfully inspiring post! As an actor & writer I was inspired on so many levels. It really made me see so much I can improve and made me feel so much I take for granted. My heart jumped with Joy for this and your dedication to putting these puzzle pieces together in such a perfect way. 🙂

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:19:43

      Took me a while, but it was so much fun. I tried my best to imagine reading this from an actor’s point of view, not just a writer’s. I’m glad the connections were clear 🙂

  20. Mike Routen
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 07:40:25

    Paul,

    This post was written by a true craftsman! Thank you for this reminder that it is the journey and not the destination that is our reward.

    I so needed to hear this today.

    Thank you.

  21. Deb Dutilh
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 07:50:45

    This is a truly inspiring post with a theme that can be applied not only to writers but to every aspect of our lives. We always get to choose how we show up to life, to others, to our relationships. One thing that struck me the most was “never break character.” Which character do we choose to play when we wake up every morning? The one who reveres and embraces the beauty of life or the angry, disappointed complainer, with a “yes, but….” attitude.

    Daniel Day-Lewis is such a great example! Thanks for sharing.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:15:26

      I love that waking up example. And the “yes, but” response is one of my greatest pet peeves, haha.

  22. Lorna
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 07:57:34

    Great post Paul, thank you. Like any endeavor that we want to master, dedication to the artistic process is a must… it’s not for ditherers! To help me learn my new craft of writing, I’m up at 6 and write until 8 – just writing; no distractions, just writing. Sometimes I don’t get a lot written, but I’m there, I’m willing and I’m committed.

    For me, it’s a slow process to get to the tipping point but I’m learning and engaged and will arrive exactly when I’m supposed to… with lots of inspiration from posts like this!

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:13:01

      Keep going Lorna.

  23. Ben
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 08:16:08

    Fascinating and inspiring post.

    One of those that I will read, and read again…and then read some more!

    Many thanks for sharing.

  24. Jim Kim
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 08:41:14

    Amazing post that is spot-on with what I am going through right now. I needed to read this. Thank you!

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:12:17

      Great to hear, thanks Jim.

  25. Denise Stickel
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 09:34:05

    Yes, it is an inspiring article. However, your fact inaccuracies here and in your blog will make people not trust your writing. DDL never played a “Native American Warrior.” Apparently you’ve never seen the movie. And, I realize you’re young, but do you think Hunter S. Thompson was the first person to say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right?” Tighten up a bit on your facts. That’s a critical part of writing as well.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:12:01

      It was an amateurish mistake. I’m surprised at myself for doing this. Sorry, Denise. The changes will come soon.

      And no, I don’t think Hunter S. was the first to say it, like many quotes that people use nowadays. I just figured the post was about writing, he’s one of my favorite writers and I use his story often, and I felt like it was a right fit.

      • Tom Southern
        Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:42:39

        Sometimes, facts matter. Sometimes, I wonder …

        A writer once had an article fact-checked so much, that their reference to some political occasion being like the Mad Hatter’s tea party, was corrected to the March Hare’s tea party. Factual, but doesn’t add anything to the point.

    • Jon
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:59:42

      Well… I think that’s taking it a little far, Denise. Yes, it was a mistake, but readers don’t stop trusting you over a little thing like that.

      In any case, fixed.

      • Mark Hermann
        Jul 11, 2013 @ 18:44:13

        To add to this chain I would use the old adage, ‘Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.’ Paul’s post does great justice to Daniel Day Lewis and his devotion to excellence.

        The poignance of his words and the message are what matter here. We can all find errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, facts, etc. I’ve done it myself reading posts and cringed. Even the New York Times runs corrections to articles. So what. We’re human. We make mistakes. But all that is just not seeing the forest for the trees.

        Pursue your craft with the goal of mastery as your greatest reward. Home your skill until it’s undeniable and the rest takes care of itself. That’s the message that matters here.

        Beautifully written, Paul. That’s a fact!

    • Tony Johnston
      Jul 13, 2013 @ 14:56:40

      Denise you are technically wrong The character was adopted into the tribe so technically he was native american. You missed the point of the Beauty of the forest by concentrating on a single tree.

  26. Tom Southern
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 09:45:32

    Great stuff Paul! Your statement to remove fear from what your love to do is a bold one. I think removing it altogether, though, would be a mistake. Fear alone can conquer you. But fear of not showing one’s best is a great friend. It’s knowing which is which.

    Your journey and example are truly motivating. I aspire to your achievements. But we all have to achieve what is right for us. We can marvel at others greatness, and the efforts they go to in order to achieve it. But we can only do what we can do.

    Also, mind, talent and the ability to step into role whenever we want to achieve something is important too.

    Reading your post,and thinking of this, I’m reminded of a story:

    Dustin Hoffman was starring in a film with Lawrence Olivier. Hoffman was surprised how Olivier instantly metamorphosed into “character” at the shout of “Action”.

    Hoffman asked Olivier how he did it, without all the “method” exercises and preparation that he, Hoffman, had been taught was essential, and so put himself through.

    Olivier replied: “By acting, dear boy!”

    It’s about having the belief in yourself.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:09:50

      This is great. This is something I’ve been thinking about lately. Belief, faith—it’s about trusting the process or the moment. Removing the negative out. Leaping.

      I’m definitely stealing that little section right now and putting it in my Evernote.

  27. Gay Barefield
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 10:34:34

    Beautiful parallels and such a true wake-up call, thanks! As Pressfield calls it “turning pro” and what better way to beat our foe, Resistance.
    Need to read this again and again, so now it’s bookmarked.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 11:59:06

      Love that book, by the way. Read it many times. Still kicks my ass.

  28. Matt West
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 10:49:16

    Fantastic post. Right from the gut and right in your face, which is just how great writing should be.

    Not every actor can be Daniel Day Lewis and not every writer can be a Nabokov, Twain or Shakespeare. That being said, you are correct in that we can mimic their dedication to their craft and give all of ourselves to what we do.

    I’m not a blogger, but I do write fiction and I’ve just recently made the jump from amateur to professional. I’ve been writing since I was old enough to work a typewriter, but I’ve never committed. I’ve never just “put my butt in the chair” and stopped telling myself I was pursuing a fools dream.

    This is a different era though. The publishing houses are no longer the gatekeepers standing between we writers and our audience. It’s just us and them, and the craft itself. We have a way to support ourselves now. We have a way to make this our life.

    Consider me inspired, sir. Bravo.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 11:58:43

      Thanks Matt, really appreciate it.

      The comparisons will always be there (Twain, Fitzgerald, etc.) but I think with the changes around us there will be more contemporary masters to learn from. It’ll be interesting to see who kids look up to, say, 50 years from now.

  29. Dana
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 11:10:25

    Daniel Day Lewis’s character in The Last of the Mohicans was not a Native American. He was an orphaned white boy, raised to manhood by the Mohicans.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 11:53:24

      Yeah it was a big mistake on my part. I don’t know how I wrote it like that in my notes. The changes will come soon. Sorry for the mixup.

    • Jon
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:56:07

      Fixed.

  30. Amandah
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 11:55:38

    Daniel Day-Lewis is one of my favorite actors. I just received “Lincoln” from the library. I hope it’s a good movie. I’ve watched a couple of the Oscar nominated movies and have been disappointed. Too much hype, not enough substance.

    I’m glad you mentioned, “Embrace the unknown. Just look at the wildly different kinds of characters Daniel Day-Lewis has played.” This is a great point. Writers, especially freelance writers, are told to specialize, but maybe you could make a decent living without being a specialist. If actors and actresses can play different roles, perhaps, freelance writers can earn a living from writing for different niches.

    Lovely post!

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:48:33

      I hear you on that one. A frustration of mine is why they ruin the adaptation of books—cutting out entire scenes, something portraying inaccurate characters (in my opinion), etc. I don’t care if a movie is 3 hours, as long as it’s the way I imagine it when I was reading the book, or better.

      There’s definitely nothing wrong with specializing, but I think having the ability to connect seemingly unrelated dots is a valuable skill; plus it makes it more interesting if done well. But yes, I like how you just compared the two. Thanks 🙂

      • Amandah
        Jul 23, 2013 @ 13:12:49

        Hi Paul,

        I watched “Lincoln” this past weekend, and I am glad I did not pay money to see the movie. Why? It was boorrring. I mean, really (adverb alert) boring and slow, so painfully (another adverb alert) slow, moving.

        Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal and embodiment of Lincoln was extraordinary, which is why he won the Oscar for his performance. But overall, I was disappointed with the film.

  31. Kathy Henderson-Sturtz
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 11:56:25

    Awesome spot on message. Hit this gal deeply at mind and soul levels. (I’m a longtime writer plus dabbler in community theater stage work)

    Will be sharing this with my writing students and coaching clients.

    Thank you for illustrating the points you highlight so well in this article.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 12:45:46

      I really appreciate that Kathy. Let me know what they think of it 🙂

  32. AISA ROSE
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 16:04:27

    Thank you for writing such a magnificent article! I was browsing through the net doing a research for my manuscript. I stumbled on your website. I’m still reeling how much it has moved me! WRITING IS INDEED AN ART! Your blog post (Daniel Day-Lewis) has touched my heart!
    Aisa Rose

  33. Ion Doaga
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 13:14:47

    I love it!

    You have to embrace the character. Live,speak and feel like your character does. It’s like turning your soul from inside out.

    I like that you are saying that writing is about moving people. Remarkable writing is not only impress your eyes, but it makes you feel something.

    I never thought I would pursue the journey of becoming a writer. I don’t know if I’ll make it. Posts like yours Paul, helps me keep on track.

    Thanks 🙂

  34. Carlos Avalos
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 13:41:54

    Beautifully crafted post. I just finished posting on my blog and I get an e-mail from Jon suggesting to read this. Great timming!!!
    Thanks for sharing.

  35. Rochelle
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 14:43:18

    I often have to remind myself that life is the journey. The dreams and goals I want to accomplish are a journey, not just a final destination. Every step in our journey only fuels us to be better. Especially our perceived failures and setbacks. If I want to be a great mom, teacher, writer I have to remember that I won’t be those things in an instant. It’s little by little, inch by inch, try by try. I love when you say: Why do we keep searching for miracles when we’re living in one? So true! Great post and one I will refer back to often.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 13, 2013 @ 11:47:20

      Bingo. Thanks 🙂

  36. Rachael Soster-Smith
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 18:28:11

    This is exactly what I needed to read today. As a writer just beginning my journey I will remember to keep the craft as my focus each day and remember that my work is the only way I know how to truly communicate. In those moments of self-doubt I will remind myself of the purpose of it all – and remember “I’ve got this”. Thanks Paul.

  37. Mike Martel
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 16:05:28

    Paul,
    While reading your post, my mind kept going back to the Be-Do-Have triad that a lot of the personal development world talks about. It really is important first to be the thing you want – in this case a writer. You have to live the life and truly believe in your heart that this is what you are meant to do and live the part. After that, the doing is getting started and developing it into craftsmanship.

    This is where a lot of people get stuck. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around. I am willing to bet Daniel Day Lewis was rough around the edges during his first acting gigs and even rough with the Lincoln part the first time he stepped into it. The important part is to keep doing and getting better and better at it.

    When the being and doing are in place comes the having or the success we are all looking for in what we want.

  38. Jim
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 16:27:24

    Writing is like breathing. I think we have to learn how to breathe properly before doing anything else. Proper breathing allows better execution of exercise, walking, playing a sport. Proper breathing allows the heart to beat slow and steady. This post is so relevant to me, that I’ve read enough to know that I need to write a whole lot more to satisfy my body, and my ego.

    So relevant that I now understand to become comfortable with myself that I need to find avenues to write at all levels of my life. I’ve never felt this way before but somehow the words within this post has come to life to me.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 13, 2013 @ 11:49:05

      Ever since I started doing Bikram yoga I realized the power in breathing. Definitely relevant on many levels.

  39. Gary
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 18:28:32

    You sir, are a craftsman.

  40. Stephanie @ the Forest of Healing
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 19:26:27

    Great post Paul! I love being able to find parallels to what I do (writing, teaching) in the work of people doing seemingly unrelated things (such as acting).

    Sometimes it’s easier on my self-esteem to contemplate the success of someone in a different industry. It’s more inspiring to draw parallels and learn lessons that way than to compare myself to other writers!

    I also think the willingness to examine best practices outside our own industry, profession, etc. helps us elevate what we do. Great insights and outside-the-box ideas come from the most unexpected places.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:14:17

      Thanks Stephanie. My latest joy in writing is connecting seemingly unrelated dots. It’s helped me learn and expand my mind about many different subjects.

  41. Jessica Stone
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 19:55:21

    I love, love, love, LOVE this! I had the exact same thoughts while “Lincoln” came off the screen. I was more focused on his performance than the story line. Thank you for the inspiration, as well as the good kick in the pants!

  42. Amanda Daniels
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 22:30:19

    Awesome! Love this blog,the subject,the passion and explaination. I’m inspired!

  43. Gary Deacon
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 03:41:03

    Such an inspiring article, I have been sharing and thinking about it since reading it a couple days ago. Totally not being a writer, the “craftsmanship”
    rings so true in our lives every day and the passion about what we are doing.

  44. Susan Neal
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 11:13:24

    Amazing to read this when I’m in the middle of Stephen King’s “On Writing” – thanks for a truly inspirational post. I’m coming back to writing late in life, after many years pursuing a different career that never fulfilled me – your account of what you’ve achieved in such a short space of time is very encouraging. The insights into Daniel Day-Lewis’s craft are fascinating – and eye-watering.

    Sue

  45. Tim Schoch
    Jul 12, 2013 @ 18:37:43

    While all this is true, it is hindsight. It is far too empathetic for most writers to feel, much less understand the employ.

    It also is not applicable to the new writer, the one trying to break through or get read.

    Learn your craft, read the best practices from successful writers in your field, know grammar, know people and situations, then write. Over and over, write. Your stuff, no second-guessing, write.

    If you’re a screenwriter, your script must be SEEN and FELT. The holy grail is to have the ability to pitch the experience verbally.

    Novelists, study Updike, Chandler, Styron, King, and all the popular writers in your genre. Also, go to the genius writers you never heard of, like Thomas Berger.

    Then write. And write some more. Oh, and by the way, rewrite.

    Ask others for their opinions — not your mom, but real readers and editors.

    Blogs allow you to publish publicly. Do it and let everyone know you are. Absorb input.

    Then get behind ONE project and build it, write it, get opinions, edit is, publish it, promote it, promote you, promote the idea.

    It doesn’t take much to find out of you are good. But it takes a lot for you to learn whether you can sell.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:12:56

      Just because it’s hindsight doesn’t decrease the value. Some writers write after they’re out of the shit, not while they’re in it.

      I can’t really comment on the second sentence because that’s strictly opinion. The rest of this is gold, so thanks for sharing Tim. That’s all definitely sound advice rooted in reality.

  46. Ian Robinson
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 13:11:48

    Excellent piece. If your a fan of Daniel, I must recommend The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988). Not only is the book a massive triumph, his part as the main character is fantastic.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:10:23

      Thanks for this. I will definitely look into it.

  47. Tony Johnston
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 15:18:09

    Writers are my heroes. I spent twenty years as a long haul truck driver. It is a lonely life and I always had books to read. I averaged at least 3 books a week if not more. I always wanted to become a writer, but had to support my family. Now that I am disabled and unable to drive I have thought about writing as a new “career”. I will lay at night thinking of stories and writing them in my head. Morning comes I get up take care of basic chores and come noon I sit down at my laptop to write. The fear kicks in, is this story stupid, will people think I am stupid; and shazaam I stare blankly into space forgetting the best selling novel I wrote in my head last night. Life intrudes, I get distracted and next thing I know it is 11pm and bedtime. Another day wasted, spent watching 8-10 hours of television, oh well there is tomorrow. Repeat and repeat and the fear wins. What about my grammar is it good enough, misspelled, oh no I put in a wrong fact people, are going to laugh at me. I am safer trusting my ability to use the television remote. Well Paul your post makes me realize that I must face the fear, turn off the television and write something. If not, then maybe a world class bestselling novel dies with me; or even worse a little piece of hard learned wisdom written in a blog post goes unwritten that could have saved some person. Paul I am thankful for your post and Let us both hope that old dogs can learn new tricks.

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:09:36

      Wow Tony, your story is incredible and I really appreciate that you just shared that. I’m seriously honored that you feel this way. Please, do write. As I was reading through your comment I kept thinking, “This guy’s a writer, this guy’s a writer.”

      Vulnerability in writing, for me at least, is really hard. But when I get even one email from someone 3,000 miles away telling me that my post helped them greatly, that they found clarity, and that they’re going to make a difference? It’s what gets me up in the mornings to write for a few hours and to hit publish a few days or a week later—even if self-doubt, fear, and anxiety are there with me.

      James Altucher is a great example. He’s one of my new favorite bloggers. He recently said somewhere that he’ll only publish a post knowing that it might not work, that people may hate it.

      His message is something I wrote in my manifesto: Anything worthwhile to your heart and soul will elicit fear and self-doubt; this is your cue to proceed.

  48. Google Boy
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 14:15:14

    Great Post!
    A true eye opener for writers..!

    I have been clinged to many of the post of the internet not many of them was good and contain similar and similar speeches…

    This was really inspiring.!
    Thanks!

  49. Qarau
    Jul 15, 2013 @ 15:06:13

    A totally Awesome and Inspiring piece Paul! Timely and much needed as well.

    I feel like I got told by my teacher to sit my butt still and finish my work.

    Keep doing what you’re doing.

    Cheers!

    • Paul Jun
      Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:02:06

      Thanks Qarau, great seeing you here.

  50. Berta
    Jul 15, 2013 @ 14:41:05

    Paul, This is just what I needed today. I remember watching Day-Lewis write with his left foot (and his brother’s surprise) and I wondered if the actor was the boy with the disability. Today I’m profoundly disabled yet productive through my writing. Thank you for encouraging me to strive for perfection in this gift of life God has given me.
    In Christian Love,
    Berta Dickerson

  51. Kay
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:25:32

    Daniel Day Lewis is one of my favorite actors for the very reasons you called him out. So I appreciate the beautiful analogy you drew between his craftsmanship and the writer’s allegiance to his art. I needed to read these things today. I need to practice them even more. You have given me motivation today. Thanks for shooting straight with us!

  52. Katharina
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 15:54:56

    What incredible timing. 65, wanting to “be a writer” all my life (started but never finished courses), letting life get in the way, all along the line, never believing I had anything worthwhile to contribute. However, the desire never goes away, and I have written things but have only ever put something out there once, only, of course, to have it come back with an ever so polite “this is not our type of thing to publish” comment. Lack of confidence kicked in, and I put it aside.
    Your post has made me realize – how HARD

  53. Katharina
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 16:03:11

    Oops – don’t know if my last post got published – accidentally sent if off “somewhere” – it was incomplete. What I wanted to say was, your post made me realize “How hard have I tried, really?” In fact, for something I have wanted to do most of my life, I have hardly tried (really) at all. I have done a lot of thinking about it, dreaming, fearing, but not actually doing. I have skirted around and around it; it really is now or never, so thank you so much for your timely post, Paul. Time to put some real love and sweat into it. I will never be whole until I do, I know that now. Better late than never, and while I can still laugh, I have also learnt to cry, by myself and with and for others, so I am as ready as I ever will be. Thank you so’ so much for sharing your passion with this otherwise “would-be”-er.

  54. CHRISTOPHER
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 22:16:23

    I concurred to your brilliant opinion Paul. It’s not really that easy to be a good writer. We need to consider what and who are the audience of our project. it must effectively attracts them, otherwise all the efforts and energy would just be spent in vain. It should be appreciated for the glory of our feelings and passion, that what matters, every appreciation is a milestone to a writer. First and foremost, a writer should put his soul and heart in it, because it can be felt by the audience.

    I love reading this article Paul and Thanks, you remind me of many things. You ignite my passion to write further. Gotcha!

  55. Vera
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 07:25:39

    I love the points you make, Paul, and the way you make them. I am inspired! Thanks for the reminder: writing = life => process not product, etc…

  56. Tracy Stella
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 10:39:49

    Paul,
    You were absolutely correct. I did enjoy this blog post. I laughed like crazy at your comment – “If you ever find yourself staring off into space, thinking deeply, and someone asks you, “What are you doing?” feel free to tell them you’re working.”
    And I wish I would have thought of “Instead of limiting yourself to one outfit, try on different ones.”
    The thought and care you have put into this post is evident.
    Keep up the great work!

  57. Samantha Laratta
    Jul 25, 2013 @ 10:07:38

    Thank you so much for this post! The effort has paid off judging from the amount of comments you have. I believe that if our words can help just one person, then we have succeeded. I shared your post on my Facebook page, because I am sure there are a lot of people sitting on an idea or goal and just scared to try, scared to fail, even scared to succeed. Your post is the most inspiring one that I have read in awhile- and I’m always looking for that extra bit of inspiration to get me through the day. So, thank you, Paul!

  58. agmadeley
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 09:04:09

    I normally dedicate an hour a day to reading interesting posts about SEO, content marketing, headline hacks and writing. I sit and make one or two notes of the more important points or particular sentences that reach out grab my attention. While reading this I damn near copied the whole post, word for word.

    Thanks

  59. Eden E
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 00:43:09

    Wow. I love this post so much. A truly comprehensive yet concise work regarding the love of the craft. You could not have inspired more motivation within me, more excitement to keep moving uphill, or more initiative to enjoy every word I write, than what you did here.

    I found excerpts to quote to your credit in almost every single paragraph.

    Right now I’m working on several projects, a few of which are collaberative with folks I know and love very personally. It’s my first time venturing into such a beast, and it’s already proven itself as an invaluable way to grow as a writer. Working with my loved ones on these often highly-sensitive projects has shed a new light on an important truth:

    Cultivating our talents can bring immense joy, both for ourselves and others. They are grateful for my leadership and guidance and encouragement. I am grateful for my perceived growth of their respect for me, for the fact that their involvement makes me accountable to someone else (and thus truly motivated,) and for the self-fulfilling prophecy that occurs every time someone says, “This is gonna be SO, FREAKING, AWESOME!”

    Just wanted to offer that insight as a small token in return for what your post here has done for me. =) Thank you very much for writing it!! I’ll be keeping my eye on your work from now on.

    ~Eden Hopper

  60. Joy
    Aug 22, 2013 @ 08:06:23

    Hi Paul Jun, thank you for sharing. I was moved and truly inspired… I also adore these words you wrote here: Anything worthwhile to your heart and soul will elicit fear and self-doubt; this is your cue to proceed.

  61. Silviu
    Oct 23, 2013 @ 07:29:56

    Hello Mr. Jun,

    Yes, terrible problem. You work hard for months or years and you are ignored. You are aware of your value and you even found experts that confirmed the value of your content. However, you are ignored. Nobody comes to your blog and nobody reads your stories and your wonders and nobody lives your mysteries together with you.

    I think this is common. Very common. I don’t know why it happens but it happens. True for 99.99% of writers.

    Success is something that just happens. Like a miracle. You work for years and you are rejected every time when you send something. Your best content is ignored, rejected, mocked and destroyed by legions of amateurs and stupid critics.

    However, you must go on, love and master your craft, live what you write and throw your passion out there right in the people’s face.

    Then suddenly, something happens. Sometimes the most trivial thing of all… . Somewhere, something happens and the rejection mechanism cracks. You get people’s attention, in one way or another.

    This is your moment: the moment you have been waiting your whole life. And at that moment you’d better have a very, very valuable thing to offer. If you didn’t work hard, if you didn’t love and master your craft, if you didn’t live your passion in front of a firing squad every day, you won’t have that valuable thing to offer (your work) and that miracle moment will pass. Forever.

    Have a wonderful day

  62. Stan Eigi
    Jan 12, 2014 @ 05:00:12

    A very inspirational article. Read every word. It’s good there are such people who inspire others, who give a push of sorts. I don’t see a meaningful distinction between an actor and an author. Both of them have to follow those tips to be successful.

  63. Rob
    Mar 20, 2014 @ 13:25:09

    Yes! How very insightful, Paul.

    Your examples really help me to see that how by persistently pursuing our craft, we create momentum. This inherently leads to success, or greatness, however that maybe defined.

    Often when we are pursuing greatness we ought to be simply focusing on our craft, for the love of that work for its own sake.

    Your points about relentlessly pursuing a craft being a matter of a journey reminds me of the quote from Viktor E. Frankl’s book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’:

    “Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself.”

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  65. Bo S.
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 17:08:22

    this gives me a new lens on which to see the way in which I write, why I write and the path that ignites insights and incites invites from faeries and phoenixes. And Daniel Day Lewis is a consummate actor and hard worker. he is passion personified.
    cheers!

  66. Fel
    Oct 30, 2014 @ 23:27:51

    Every word you said were true.

    When I was on my high school years I started writing about anything. I just did writing almost every night before I go to sleep. I just felt that writing was my passion. As the years passed by it died down. Why? Because nobody is listening and I am scared. I don’t know what to do and what am I going to do with my work.

    A year ago I tried to write again and am still confused not until now I read your post.

    Thank you so much for light you brought me.

    FEL

  67. Lidiya K
    Dec 06, 2014 @ 10:03:42

    I’ve experienced the same change in my writing journey. It wasn’t until I truly believed in it, committed to it, realized it’s a part of who I am and there’s no finishing line, and actually started to work on creating the habit of writing more and better, seeing how others do it and always being open to new things, that I started seeing achievements.

    Thank you for this beautiful post. Now you can consider me another fan of this amazing actor. I just love seeing the deeper side of people like him, figuring out what makes them act this way.

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