“Be in love with the process” — thanks, Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkins

By AkaiAkai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54485717

Picking up his Oscar for co-writing the screenplay for Moonlight, Barry Jenkins exclaimed:

“Be in love with the process, not the result.”

I’ve been catching up with the Oscars on my DVR (I was too sore to get out of bed last night to watch them live). It’s nearly 6:30 on Monday night and I didn’t have a blog written for—well, when you’re reading this it will be “today,” so—today. But a commitment is a commitment, so here I am at the old laptop.

I am definitely not in love with the process of healing from this operation I had five days ago. But like Mr. Jenkins, I am in love with the process of writing. And with the result, too: my 308-day writing streak (I’ll hit 308 as soon as I’m finished writing this). Sense of accomplishment, blah, blah. I’ve written about all of that before.

But I know that’s not the kind of result Barry Jenkins was talking about. He meant, don’t sweat over your laptops trying to write an award-winning screenplay: just write your truth.

“Just trying to drill down and get that right…If you create something that’s distinct and unique, you get a genuine, visceral reaction out of the person receiving it.”

Barry Jenkins offers great advice for filmmakers…and speakers

Even if you never write a movie—heck, even if you never see a movie—you’d do well to take Barry Jenkins’s advice seriously. Create something original. Create something true and your audience cannot help but feel and respond to your truth. Not with polite applause, but with a “genuine, visceral reaction.”

Visceral reactions stay with people—I still remember the visceral reaction I had to James Baldwin, the first time I encountered his words. I’d never heard anyone speak so bravely.

I’d seen the musical Gypsy at least five times before I saw Patti LuPone take on the role, and when she finished her big number in the second act, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Visceral reactions don’t get much more literal than that; I even emitted a small “oof” in the stunned silence after she finished.

I digress…or do I?

I saw the LuPone Gypsy nearly a decade ago; my James Baldwin memory is about three times as old. But both made an impact on me; both remain fresh. When you speak your truth, when you convey honest emotion, you give people the most precious gift possible.

Would you like to write like that? Would you like to leave that kind of emotional legacy when you speak?

Just listen to Barry Jenkins: Love the process. Drill down as deeply as you need to do to get it right. Not because you’re aiming for any accolades; just because you honor yourself and your audience enough to do the best damn work you can, every damn time.

  • storytelling
  • writing