Writing Lesson: Being Tommy

There’s this great movie called Warrior. It’s about ultimate fighting, sort of, but I swear, it’s great. I don’t like that shit in real life, and I love Warrior. Most people I know don’t love fight sports, and they love Warrior. 

I would tell you all about it, but I think what’s better is for you to go and watch it. Then come back and read. Trust me, what you’re going to read here isn’t nearly what you’ll get from Warrior. Don’t sacrifice watching that flick for reading what’s here.

Aaaaand now that you’ve watched it, dried your tears and probably purchased a couple of The National’s songs, we can get down to business.

In Warrior there’s a fighter named Tommy. Tommy is a bit different from other fighters in the movie. Noticeably, he doesn’t wear any logos on his clothing when he walks to the ring (octagon? I feel like “ring” is still valid. It’s not like a boxing ring is a circle). He doesn’t sport any logos inside the ring either. He doesn’t have any special music playing when he walks in.

Tommy is different from the other fighters because he is just that. A fighter. Not a billboard. Not a marketer. For better or worse, in this movie, Tommy isn’t a brother or a son. There’s no romantic arc for Tommy. He’s a fighter. Period.

And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

Today there’s a tremendous pressure on writers. You’re not only supposed to be a writer. You’re supposed to be a marketer. Because nobody’s going to market for you. You’re supposed to be a graphic designer, or you’re supposed to be enough of something else to pay a graphic designer. You’re supposed to be a web designer. You’re supposed to be funny and poignant on Twitter. You’re supposed to update everyone on Instagram. You’re supposed to be yourself on Facebook, unless yourself posts too many workouts or sandwiches or too much political stuff. You’re supposed to be yourself, but, you know, not TOO MUCH of yourself. Not yourself to the point where it bothers somebody.

You’ll hear a lot of this as a writer. You’ll feel a lot of this. The pressure to be seen online. The fear that you’ll launch a brilliant book and have to scramble to get involved with Snapchat in order to sell enough copies.

And you’re not wrong. Outlets will look at your ability to sell yourself. Some indie presses take that into account when they’re looking to publish you. What you’re hearing, it’s not wrong. But I’m going to ask you to ignore it anyway.

I’m going to ask you to be Tommy this week.

I have a prediction for the future. It’s a curmudgeonly prediction. It’ll make me sound like an old man. I’ll own it.

My prediction is that a lot of us will look back on these years and say we wasted time doing online bullshit when we should have been writing. My prediction is also that very few of us will feel that we wasted time writing when we should have been working on an online platform to sell the work.

In other words, we’re going to spend a lot of time designing a logo for our plumbing business, buying a van, creating an online following, managing Yelp reviews. And then realize we never actually learned how to do plumbing. How to plumb? Whatever.

Here’s my request: This week, as your writing lesson, don’t be online. Don’t login to Twitter or Facebook. Remove the apps from your phone if you can. Change your password to something you won’t remember, write it down and put it into a drawer. Everyone needs a different level of convincing.

And instead, during the moments when you would check your shit online, use the time to write something or edit something. If that’s how you start your day, like many of us, shift to starting your day with a quick 10 minutes of writing. Same for ending your day.

You might be asking yourself what this has to do with Tommy. Here’s how:

Tommy is good at what he does, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that he doesn’t waste his time being concerned with ANYTHING else. He’s concerned with wining his fights, not how he’s going to use his talents to make money.

Too many of us writers spend a lot of time fucking around online in the name of “work.” Too many of us fall back on saying, “But it’s important to get my name out there.”

Take the next week and ponder this. Ask yourself, “But what if I’m wrong? What if it’s really NOT important?”


If you want to get online and do stuff, that’s totally fine. If you love it, then do it. But stop telling yourself that it’s about your writing.

Take the next week and be Tommy. Don’t worry about selling your shit. Don’t worry about what people are doing online. Don’t worry about retweets.

Take the next week, gather up that time, and write.