The Forrest Gump Guide to Writing That Bites Readers in the Buttocks


Southern Gentleman (John Worsham): “It was a bullet, wasn’t it?”
Forrest: “A bullet?”
Southern Gentleman: “That jumped up and bit you.”
Forrest: “Oh. Yes, sir. Bit me directly in the but-tocks.”


One moment, you’re checking your email or surfing the web or browsing through the aisles of Barnes & Noble, minding your own business, doing nobody any harm, and that’s when it happens…

You read something that jumps up and bites you in the buttocks.

It’s so beautifully written, so painfully true, you can’t help feeling like you just got shot. No, it’s not a physical wound, but you can feel the ideas kicking around inside you, and you know somehow that they’ll stay with you for a very long time.

Maybe you even wonder how you can write like that yourself. So few can.

With blogging in particular, most writing is pitiful, full of shallow ideas and poorly told stories. The posts are hardly memorable, much less capable of making readers feel like they just took a physical blow.

The good news is Forrest Gump is here to help. Here are some of the best lines from the movie, along with advice on exactly how you can up your game:

Forrest Gump: “Hello. I’m Forrest… Forrest Gump.”
Army Bus Driver: “Nobody gives a horse’s shit who you are, pus ball! You’re not even a low-life, scum-sucking maggot!”

And the truth is, neither are we.

Yes, I know you have the world’s greatest untold story. Yes, I know you’re aching to tell it. Yes, I know it’ll turn readers into blubbering, sobbing messes of emotion.

But restrain yourself for a while.

There are times and places for stories, it’s true. I’ve even told mine once or twice (okay, three times).

I waited years, though. Not because it took me that long to tell the tale, but because that’s how long it took me to earn it.

Before your readers care about you, first they have to know how much you care about them.

Their problems. Their dreams. Their questions.

Not yours. At least, not in the beginning.

An audience is only ready to hear your story when they feel you really and truly have heard theirs. Never before.

Jenny: “Do you have a dream, Forrest, about who you’re going to be?”
Forrest: “Aren’t I going to be me?”

Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to stick your personality in a box and stuff it in long-term storage. Lordy, no.

Any great writer’s personality bleeds into the page. There’s a special quality to their words, sentences, and paragraphs that’s as unique to them as a fingerprint.

Part of your job as a beginning writer is to find your own writing fingerprint. You were born with it, just as much as you were born with arms and toes and fingernails.

And the journey to find it, why, that’s one of the greatest journeys there is.

Truly dedicated writers don’t just explore topics and ideas and audiences, looking for the right match. They explore voices too, saying things this way and that until they find the voice that bubbles up right from their soul.

You can find that voice. It’s inside you.

You just need the courage to express it.

Drill Sergeant: “GUMP! What’s your sole purpose in this army?”
Gump: “To do whatever you tell me, Drill Sergeant?”
Drill Sergeant: “Goddammit Gump, you’re a goddamn genius. That’s the most outstanding answer I’ve ever heard. You must have a goddamn IQ of 160! You’re goddamn gifted, Private Gump!”

The best way to find that courage?

Get a mentor.

Too many writers struggle in solitude, fumbling to learn how to write all on their own. It’s a horrible mistake, not only because our craft is devilishly complicated, but because the anxiety of not knowing whether you’re good enough can rip you apart inside.

A mentor can tell you. A mentor can teach you. A mentor can make you a great writer decades sooner than you could have become one on your own.

So, where do you find one?

Well, you don’t. Mentors aren’t found. They’re bought.

In the olden days, parents would pay master craftsman to take their child in as an apprentice. Thousands of years later, it’s still largely the same. The only difference is you pay the master, in most cases, not your parents.

So, find yourself a good writing teacher and pay them to teach you. If you’re serious about writing, it’s the best investment you could possibly make.

(PS: You can find one of my mentorship programs here.)

 Forrest: “Now Bubba told me everything he knew about shrimping, but you know what I found out? Shrimping is tough.”

The harsh truth, though?

Yes, a mentor is a must, but there are also certain ephemeral lessons you can learn only by your lonesome. And it’s tough. Just as tough as shrimping, I would guess.

For example, deciding what to write. A mentor can teach you how to organize sentences, express your ideas, and even deal with your inhibitions, but tell you what to say? Sorry. Nobody can decide that but you.

The bad news is the decision of what to say is maybe even more important than knowing how to say it.

In my years as a teacher, I’ve taught more than 1,000 bushytailed bloggers how to write, and I like to think I’ve made all of them better, but there’s a certain percentage of them that just can’t help writing about the dumbest things. Oh, they write it well, but it’s a topic no one cares about, so it does nobody any good.

On the flip side, there are also bloggers who write about topics the world is so desperate to learn more about they can’t help become popular. When they sign up for one of my courses, I just take away the rough edges. Nothing more, really.

Which camp do you fall into?

Well, I don’t know, but I believe it’s a choice. And it’s one only you can make.

Lt. Dan: “They gave you the congressional Medal of Honor.”
Forrest: “Yes, sir. They surely did.”
Lt. Dan: “They gave you, an imbecile, a moron who goes on television and makes a fool out of himself in front of the whole damn country, the congressional Medal of Honor.”
Forrest: “Yes, sir.”
Lt. Dan: “Well, that… that’s just perfect!”

The good news?

Not all your decisions have to be right. In fact, you might as well prepare yourself – a fair percentage of what you write will be shockingly stupid, and when you publish it, you’ll look like a fool in front of everyone.

But therein lies a precious secret:

The difference between a great writer and a merely good one is being willing to look like a fool. You have to be fearless, writing not with a squeak, but with a roar.

That’s what readers remember. That’s what readers reward.

Forrest: “Sorry I had a fight in the middle of your Black Panther party.”

How, exactly, do you write with a roar?

Well, you can start by standing up to the bad guys. Not just obvious ones like serial killers and rapists and drug dealers, but every day baddies like mean-spirited critics, moneygrubbing gurus, and brainless bloggers.

Don’t do it in anger. Don’t call anyone names. Don’t be self-righteous.

In fact, be the opposite. Be humble, maybe even a little apologetic for having to cause a commotion, but also unquestionably firm in your convictions and unwilling to back down.

A lot of times, you’ll be all alone. You might even be surrounded by a whole industry of people who vehemently disagree with you.

But you’ll also get emails from people who are grateful for someone saying something. Seeing your courage, a few other brave souls might even speak up and publicly agree with you.

Your job is to be that spark, to be the lone voice of dissent willing to take a stand. A small but very loyal group of people will love you for it.

Lt. Dan: “Come on! You call this a storm? Blow, you son of a bitch, blow! It’s time for a showdown! You and me! I’m right here! Come and get me! Ha ha! Ha ha! You’ll never sink… this… boat! Ha ha ha ha!”

And most of all?

Never, ever give up.

Yes, you can make adjustments. Yes, you can change directions. Yes, you can even start over, if you have to.

But don’t quit. Not ever.

Not when you’re struggling to pay the bills. Not when your family thinks you’re crazy. Not when everyone ignores your work. Not when publishers reject you. Not when you feel like God is urging you to do something else.

It will be tempting, believe me. I thought about quitting lots of times. At the end of the day though, here’s the simple truth:

If you’re a writer, you write. Every day. For life.

That’s how you get good. That’s how you get respect. That’s how you build an audience.

And Forrest Gump?

If you remember, Jenny told him to run. You know, “Run, Forrest, run!”

Well, I’m changing that up a bit. For us, the motto is “Write, writer, write!”

Do that, and everything else will take care of itself. Just you watch and see.

About the Author: Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called “His Royal Awesomeness,” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Smart Blogger. Poor man. 😉


  1. Richard Perfect
    Feb 24, 2013 @ 23:52:47

    “You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.” – Isaac Asimov

    • Jon
      Feb 25, 2013 @ 15:33:46


  2. Ahmed Safwan@ To Start Blogging
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 04:54:31

    So the main idea is to find what your audience want and then hire a mentor to tell you how to write it perfectly and then publish your post.
    If you can’t hire a mentor go and post it.

    If you don’t act nothing will happen.

    Thanks for this awesome post Jon. I really liked the idea of the post.

  3. Barb Raveling
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 05:10:43

    I love, love, love this post! And I needed every single last point. Thank you. I’m going to go make a fool of myself now.

  4. Coco
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 05:21:14

    “I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.”

    This one from Forrest Gump is a regular in my mind. It sums up so much for me and often plays in the background when I’m writing, reading, walking, driving, cleaning the kitchen sink, paying bills, petting the cat. For me, it points out the essence of everything.

    • Jon
      Feb 25, 2013 @ 15:34:22

      I love that quote too.

  5. Sue Neal
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 05:31:48

    Great post, Your Awesomeness – especially the last bit – write, write, write….

    I read a disheartening post a few months back, the message of which seemed to be that we shouldn’t bother writing anything unless we can write something sensational – the author was suggesting there’s just too much rubbish out there and we shouldn’t be adding to it.

    I’d argue that surely we have to write some less-then-awesome content on the way to writing our masterpiece – not intentionally, obviously – but if we never put pen to paper until we feel able to write our very own War and Peace – or even a blog post as good as this one – well, we’ll just never put pen to paper, will we?


    • Jon
      Feb 25, 2013 @ 15:39:33

      In my opinion, the best practice is to write everyday but only publish work you’re genuinely proud of. That way, you’re not burdened by perfectionism, but everybody still think you’re perfect. 🙂

      • Scott Anderson
        Feb 26, 2013 @ 05:40:01

        Jon, this is also great advice. Thank you!

  6. Simon Brushfield
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 05:32:04

    Hi Jon, thanks for the post. I love movies for the deep connection they often provide. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of Forrest Gump, I am a big fan of ‘Dead Poets Society’ and the profound sentiments expressed in that movie. It really tugged on my heart strings because I can relate to it on so many different levels. Will take your lead and maybe write a post about Dead Poets soon. Thanks for the idea, Simon

    • Annette Skarin
      Feb 25, 2013 @ 10:55:44

      I also relate to ‘Dead Poets Society’ as I’ve had similar experiences, in my “Truman” world, on the prairies of Canada.
      I have a disorder in my wiring, which caused me to struggle in conventional school settings. I didn’t discover my creative writer until I was completely white-haired. I have the goal of sparking just one person to never give up. If that spark causes a “Forrest fire” I will feel I’ve more than doubled my one talent. Great post.

    • Jon
      Feb 25, 2013 @ 15:40:25

      Yep, another great movie. Go for it.

  7. Rosemary Cunningham
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 05:32:27

    Thanks Jon.. I love the wisdom in this. I enjoy writing but often get lost in what to write about as I worry too much about how it will be received! I journal every day.. that’s been a start.
    At least I’m in the habit of putting pen to paper regularly now!

  8. Flora Morris Brown
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 05:38:39


    Thank you for continuing to encourage us, this time through Forrest Gump.

    The most meaningful points for me are

    1. We must be willing to look like a fool, but roar anyway since that’s what readers reward.
    2. Never give up because after all, writers write.
    3. Hire a writing mentor. Thankfully we have the best mentor in you.

  9. Beth
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 05:57:18

    What an awesome, thought provoking post. You continue to inspire me, Jon. Thank you.

  10. Maria Killam
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 06:39:04

    Jon, awesome post! Have you seen my bribe report, it’s on my blog now! Thanks so much for your coaching, it was worth every penny!! x Maria

  11. Sergey
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 06:53:04

    So motivating! Each of your post is like that. Looking forward for other masterpieces full of useful advices and wisdom. Thank you, Jon.

  12. Mark Hermann
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 07:02:56

    I love that you chose this film, Jon. It mirrors in so many ways the the twists and turns in the journey of the writer.

    One point that every writer could take away from this post happened with the making of this film itself. Where art imitates life. In this case, the writer’s life.

    A little known fact is that the script for Forest Gump floated around Hollywood for more than 9 Years!! That’s how many times it got rejected. But the writer believed in his heart they had the goods and just kept throwing it against the wall until it finally stuck.

    So when you talk about never giving up, look no further than the story of this film.

    Perseverance does indeed pay off!

    But only if you persevere.

    • Jon
      Feb 25, 2013 @ 15:42:10

      It’s strange how some of the best works of art get rejected by everyone. Gives solace to those of us in the midst of rejection, though. 🙂

  13. Debbie
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 07:25:48

    Thanks Jon for the pep talk. Now i shall go write, write and write some more.

  14. Marcus Brotherton
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 07:52:19

    Thanks Jon, great post. In addition to the things you listed, I’ve found it also takes a little LUCK …

    A few months later they invited me and the ping-pong team to visit the White House. So I went again. And I met the President of the United States again…

    and a little FAITH …

    So I went to church every Sunday… Sometimes Lieutenant Dan came, too. Though I think he left the praying up to me. It’s funny Lieutenant Dan said that, ’cause right then, God showed up.

  15. Sisters From Another Mister
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 08:13:33

    At 9.15 this morning I got back into bed and pulled the covers over my head. At 9.45 I decided I was being an idiot and got up again – then this showed up in my Facebook stream. Timing is everything.

    • Jon
      Feb 25, 2013 @ 15:44:02

      Good old serendipity. 🙂

  16. Brenda Golbus
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 09:00:25

    I set up a meeting with a mentor last night. Your post affirmed my decision to call on guidance and experience for help.

    I do think I have an audience. Now to make a fool of myself and move forward.

    • Jon
      Mar 05, 2013 @ 20:30:49

      Go for it!

  17. Cecil McIntosh
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 09:11:45

    Hi Jon.

    Entertaining, Intriguing and Educational.

    Here are my 5 take-a-ways from your post.

    1.I like the way you use quotes from Forrest Gump as your subheads. This gives me another unique angle to approach my posts.

    2.I also like the way you pull the headline into the article “You read something that jumps up and bites you in the buttocks”.

    3.I like that you offered a free case study via a short video (always giving) and you mentioned that you have a mentorship program via video (addressing the visual learners).

    You let me know you are an expert while providing an opportunity to capture my email without being “salesy”.

    4.I like your definition of a mentor and why you should pay a mentor –

    “So, find yourself a good writing teacher and pay them to teach you. If you’re serious about writing, it’s the best investment you could possibly make.”

    5.I love you pep talk.

    “If you remember, Jenny told him to run. You know, “Run, Forrest, run!”
    Well, I’m changing that up a bit. For us, the motto is “Write, writer, write!””

    Thanks for sharing. Peace, Cecil.

  18. Kenneth Vogt
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 09:53:35

    Right in the middle you said something I hope will be heard: be humble. It seems the masses do not grasp the tremendous power of humility. You, my friend, have that power.

  19. Nicki
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 10:19:24

    Well, this post jumped up and bit me in the buttocks.

    I’ve just finished reading “The War of Art”, so I was really ready to hear what you’ve written so well.

    And “write, writer, write” – not easy, just necessary.

    Great post – again.
    Thank you.

    • Jon
      Mar 05, 2013 @ 20:29:46

      I love The War of Art. It’s one of the most important books for any artist to read, in my opinion.

  20. Bree
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 11:34:59

    Thank you so much for this post, Jon! I always took the approach to film and TV that lots of what they teach can be applied to many areas of life.

  21. Joseph Bernard
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 13:49:31

    Always love you writing Jon. I see this also about about being authentic to the voice of inspiration that wants to speak through you.

    The challenge is to get out of the damn way of that voice, drop the know-it-all ego and submit yourself to the greater knowing that resides in you.

    That way all of us can be uplifted by the deeper wisdom you access.

    You rock like Mr Word Doc,


    • Jon
      Mar 05, 2013 @ 20:29:12

      Thanks Joseph.

  22. Amandah
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 14:01:14

    I love “Forrest Gump!” It’s a movie that’s jammed packed with life lessons and metaphors.

    When you first start out blogging, you may think that you do have to stuff your personality, and instead, churn out posts that are a bit mechanical. As you have pointed out, you can interject your personality into your posts. Just make sure you write in a “niche” that people are hungry for. Study the writing and writing style of top bloggers (Jon and others) but don’t copy them. And, of course, study with them. If you want to be great, you won’t stop learning. 🙂

  23. Caterina Rindi
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 15:38:51

    Thanks for this post, Jon. Reading good writing always inspires me to write more.

    One small typo in your cute “About the Author” section at the very end – I think “Ao” is supposed to be “So”:
    “Ao, he settles for CEO of Boost Blog Traffic, LLC.”

    Also, if you ever feel like you need more proofreading or editing of this sort, I’d be open to a services trade. 🙂

    I’m working on growing my blog (about sharing) and audience in the next few months.

  24. Sheryl Kurland
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 16:17:31

    I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched Forrest Gump, and every time I do I pick up another “life” tidbit. You really made some interesting comparisons between the movie and writing, Jon. One suggestion I’d like to share that helps me a lot with writing ideas and perhaps it may be useful to some of your readers…Keep a pen and paper by your bedside. Some of the best thoughts pop in our noggins when we’re calling it a day, and the mind just won’t be quiet. Or you awake in the wee hours of the morning with a busy brain. Write down these thoughts immediately because if you don’t, when you get up the next day you’ll likely be thinking, “I had such a good idea to write about but I can’t remember what it was.”

    • Jon
      Mar 05, 2013 @ 20:28:03

      Yep. It’s a simple thing to do. Tragic how many of us don’t do it.

    • Tessa
      Mar 07, 2013 @ 13:12:19

      Hi Sheryl, another Jon fan here, tip on keeping those thoughts you should write down just before dozing off – Record them on your cell, and file under Ideas, for reflection on waking up.

  25. Wade Balsdon
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 07:14:38

    Great post and a great movie, one of the best that I ever seen. Thanks for the wake up call Jon.

  26. Ben Aitken (NTF)
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 06:33:29

    Brilliant stuff as always Jon and plenty for us Bloggers to think about (and act upon). Another Forrest Gump quote I like is…
    “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went”
    The last line us bloggers can replace with “when I had to write, you know, I wrote”.

    Top work Jon – Thanks


  27. Kimberly Jones
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 07:40:08

    This email was like a box of chocolates. When I opened it, I had no idea what I was gonna get. Good, fun stuff. Thanks!

  28. Pat
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 16:04:24

    Awesome post. Thanks for the writing push. I have ideas for ebooks and I definitely need a writing mentor.
    Apprenticeship really is the way humans are supposed to learn.
    Our industrialized education system pumps out worker bees, but not independent people who know they can put a roof over their heads, food on the table and are beholden to no one.
    Being able to write is freedom of thought, freedom of income, freedom to travel. Awesome.

  29. Sky
    Feb 27, 2013 @ 16:28:00

    What an entertaining and intriguing reminder to good, solid ‘life’ advice. I love the “write, writer, write.” I need that buzz in my ear all day. Thanks Jon!

  30. Ralph Hua
    Feb 27, 2013 @ 20:15:05

    Thank you Jon for this great post.

    “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” – Andy Warhol

    Writing is a form of Art.
    Persistence too.

    • Jon
      Mar 05, 2013 @ 20:26:17


  31. Susan B. Bentley
    Feb 28, 2013 @ 05:45:23

    Thanks Jon for a very motivational post, though I’m now doomed to spend the rest of my day shouting ‘life is like a box of chocolates’ and ‘Lieutenant Dan’ at my writing partner (the cat)in a particularly dodgy southern accent!

    • Jon
      Mar 05, 2013 @ 20:25:51

      Ha! That sounds like a YouTube video in the making.

  32. Justin Keith
    Feb 28, 2013 @ 12:22:19

    Great insights. Growth as a writer only comes through more writing.

  33. Tessa
    Mar 07, 2013 @ 13:07:29

    Hi Your Royal Awesomeness, this is a brilliant post, you are truly and wonderfully inspiring. The meek shall inherit the earth – Forest Gump is the original meek man who shows up the flaws in the pompous and arrogant. I have no words left except to say you are truly AWESOME. Thanks Jon, for keeping us humble,sane,and on track,by using Forest to remind us to not get ‘above’ ourselves, keeping us grounded to what is real, and showing us how it’s done.

  34. Nicole Elliott
    Mar 09, 2013 @ 13:59:10

    Forrest Gump and great advice–win/win post! 🙂

  35. Nathasha
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 18:56:06

    This is one of my favorite posts. Your personality is so there! 🙂

  36. Jack Sarlo
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 06:40:40

    Just came to this site, looking for blog traffic tips from google… the book I got about 52 headlines is excellent, I mean it’s really good 🙂 I love it… thanks!

  37. Josh
    Mar 21, 2013 @ 11:30:10

    The difference between a great writer and a merely good one is being willing to look like a fool. You have to be fearless, writing not with a squeak, but with a roar.

    I am a huge believer in this. If we let fear of looking foolish prevent us from publishing we risk far more than a few moments of being red faced.

  38. Mo
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 03:00:50

    I think your own writing gets better and better every day Jon. Congratulations – and I AM waiting for that original novel you say you´re not going to write.

  39. Nikki Robinson
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 23:22:50

    “Write, writer, write!”

    I love it!

    This was highly entertaining, in the least. Awesome advice for beginners also.

  40. Andrew
    May 10, 2013 @ 16:19:20

    That’s how you write, and I absolutely love it. You have a gift. Keep on writing.

  41. Glen
    May 29, 2013 @ 09:12:16

    Hey Jon,
    I started writing back in 2008 and it was horrible (It was actually worse than horrible – according to my wife).

    But I kept at it inspite of all the nay-sayers.

    Forrest’s Gumps Mother said… “You have to do the best with what God gave you.”

    But, like Jon said, we have a choices.

    We can either slog through and learn it on our own (this can take years), or get a mentor and move quickly through the process.

    Either way it’s a craft worth learning.

    Thanks Jon!