Lessons from Finding Forrester


I recently rewatched one of my favorite films, Finding Forrester, which never ceases to make me think.  It’s a film that is, first and foremost, about writing, and as a budding writer, it’s not difficult for me to take things away from it.  In case you’re not familiar with this poignant film, it revolves around Jamal Wallace, an African American teenager from the Bronx with a gift for writing, who befriends William Forrester, an older, reclusive Pulitzer Prize-winning author.  The film contains lessons about writing and life, and here are some that jump out at me:

  1. On a purely superficial note, thanks to a memorable scene in the film, I will never forget the subtle distinction between the words farther and further.  For those of you who are unclear about it, farther refers to a distance, whereas further refers to a degree.
  2. Also, thanks to the film, I feel comfortable starting sentences with a conjunction, since the film contains a nice debate on the subject.
  3. More importantly, Finding Forrester taught me to write with my heart.  In one memorable line, Forrester says, “You write your first draft with your heart.  You rewrite with your head.”  The first time I saw the film – several years ago, mind you – when I heard Forrester say that, I actually said out loud, “I can’t do that!  I need a plan!”  Funnily enough, my writing habits have changed.  Now, even when I write academic papers, I just start writing; the main idea usually pops into my head as I’m writing.  And for fiction, I sometimes try to plan, but the best ideas are the ones borne out of just typing away at the keys.
  4. And finally, Finding Forrester is one of many works that made me realize that I shouldn’t let fear hold me back from trying things.  One line says, “We walk away from our dreams afraid that we may fail or worse yet, afraid we may succeed.” When I watched the film this last time, this is the line that stuck out at me.  At that point in time, I was still dilly-dallying trying to figure out if I was going to start this blog.  Whatever I thought, there was always something holding me back.  I didn’t want to start it because I didn’t want it to fail, and honestly, there was a part of me that didn’t want it to succeed.  But you know what?  None of that matters.  And once I saw Finding Forrester this last time, I finally realized it.

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