Good Things In, Good Things Out with Guest Author Joe Williams-Nelson

If we want to be inspired, productive, and happy, we have to make sure we’re regularly dosing ourselves with inspiration, productivity, and happiness. Our creating environment is something we can impact easily and instantly, and that can have a big impact on our confidence and the quality of work we’re producing.

Good things in. Good things out.

Joe Williams-Nelson, author of Lights, Camera, Take Action: 52 Weeks to a Better Life, One Movie at a Time (Balboa Press), understands the importance of surrounding ourselves with art, mantras, music, and movies that inspire and uplift. But today, she’s going to focus on movies.

Joe's Book

At a local appearance last fall, she advertised, “Tell me your favorite movie, and I will show you how to use that movie to fuel your dreams.”

Week 10 of her book uses the movie Good Will Hunting to teach readers how to deal responsibly with their potential. And she’s specially tailored this advice for the writers and confidence-seekers reading this blog. 

Take it away, Joe!

Good Will Hunting is an amazing movie to watch over and over again and I have. It stars Matt Damon as Will and Ben Affleck as his best friend Chuckie. They are two kids who grew up in South Boston with the glare of a better life just across the Charles River. This movie also stars the late great comedian and actor Robin Williams. It is his portrayal of a psychiatrist, also from South Boston, that wins him his first Oscar. Matt and Ben both win Oscars for the screenplay they co-wrote.

Share your gifts and talents with the world.

This movie teaches us the cost of keeping your genius to yourself. All that creativity is not meant for you alone. Keeping it in your head without ever letting it have its first breath is a form of control and selfishness. There’s a part of you that relishes the thought that you know a little bit more than everyone else. There is a scene in the movie where Will is underestimated by some Yuppies in a Harvard bar. The joy is so evident on his face as he demonstrates to the whole bar that he is, in fact, the smartest person in the room. Though it is one of the best scenes in movie history, we are talking lessons here. As writers we are not meant to use our creative genius just for cheap bar tricks and thrills. Do you really want to die being known for having the best birthday message on the office card for the boss?

Genius is very demanding. It will have its say.

Although Will is a janitor, he wants to be close to the action of great minds doing what they do best, which is why he is a janitor at MIT. Similarly, writers love libraries and bookstores. We love to see our name in print, or maybe that’s just me. Really it is the genius inside of me having its way. I sit in libraries and imagine my name on one of those shelves–or even the building–one day. I have to write in order for that to happen. I have to share what I have written, and then I have to do it all over again.

The flip side to this is that, when I sit in a bookstore and look at all the featured authors and the different sections to choose from, I tell myself lies. Unfortunately we story makers make up stories that are not always good ones. I have told myself that no one wants to hear what I have to say. There’s nothing new that I can bring to this already crowded room of talent. The lies I tell. In the movie, Will solves equations on the chalkboards when no one is looking. He catches the eye of a professor but runs away to do construction with Chuckie. What a waste! and his best friend tells him so. Avoid the trap of false modesty.

“If you love to write then write all the time. Be bold about your sharing. Say those dreams out loud. The next time you are in a library or bookstore, dare to clear some space on the shelf for your own book to be there one day.”

Creative types internalize everything.

Dare I say we are more empathetic than the average Joe. Well, that is exactly why God gave you this creative outlet that is your genius. It is there so you have somewhere to put all that emotion you are carrying around. In the movie, we learn that Will was an abused foster child who never processed the pain he endured from horrible caretakers. After handing out yet another beat down (this time, not verbally but a physical one), Will is arrested. He, of course, acts as his own defense attorney, but the judge, in his wisdom clearly seeing the inner war going on within Will, orders him to have mandatory therapy as a condition of his release.

“I believe everyone needs therapy. However, I define therapy as simply giving yourself what you need to feel better. Sometimes that is sleep, sometimes that is a good journal session, and sometimes you need to talk to someone who can help you process things that are too much for you to handle alone.”

Every writer should keep a journal that has nothing to do with their creative writing or writing as a profession. The journal should be sacred, secret, and a little sacrificial. In order to continue to become better writers, we have to offer up those damaged pieces of ourselves. We may change a name or location, but every writer puts their life into their work. Use your journal to express your anger, your hurt, frustrations, and all those emotions that need to be processed. It will make you a better person first and then a better writer second.

Writers do not have the luxury of being comfortable.

As I said earlier, you are story tellers. You are either telling your own story or making up one. Either way it requires you to have life experience and to do research. The last lesson from Good Will Hunting addresses Will’s hesitance to take a job that would put his genius to use but challenge him personally. Will only wanted to be around people who were like the side of him that he was comfortable with. As a writer you do not have the luxury of being comfortable. Writers cannot just do their research sitting behind a stack of books or in front of a computer screen. I write about movies so I have big plans to one day go to the Oscars, present at the Oscars, and possibly receive an Oscar. I have no idea how this will happen and that is how I know it is a big enough dream, because it is bigger than me.

“Writers must live outside of their comfort zone. You owe it to yourself and your readers. There are people who can’t live the life they read about, or they need inspiration, and sometimes even permission. We owe it to them to make our words ring true.”

Truth sets everyone and everything free, especially passion for life. Your readers are counting on you to exhaust life for them and then to write about it.

Let’s recap.

Lesson #1-Write and share that work often. Keeping your genius to yourself is selfish and is a futile attempt to prove you know better than God. God gave the talent to the right person, now go prove God right instead.

Lesson #2-Don’t believe lies. Surround yourself with people who see your value and will tell you the truth. Tell yourself the truth also. If you want to be a NY Times Bestselling author who makes millions of dollars for writing then say that. It is okay.

Lesson #3-Keep a journal and write in it everyday. Talk to trusted wise people about your feelings. Don’t burden anyone, but it is okay to ask for what you need from a good friend, mentor, or significant other. You deserve the dignity of processing your feelings in a loving way.

Lesson #4-Live & Experience Life. Take a road trip with your best friend. Take a writing class at Harvard or in Maui. Rent an apartment in Paris, climb a mountain (it will hurt, you’ll cuss the whole way, but it will give you experience to draw from). The main thing is to not shy away from the world to stay comfortable.

Take care of you, Joe Williams-Nelson


Joe Williams-Nelson has been supporting people on their personal growth journey as a Spiritual Life Coach for ten years. In Lights, Camera, Take Action: 52 Weeks to a Better Life, One Movie at a Time, she combines her love of movies with her skills as a life coach to inspire her audience to gain new perspectives on life.


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