One night while on my recent travels I happened to catch this movie called Adult World on Showtime--or Showtime 2. It's about a goody-goody uptight would-be poet named Amy, played by Emma Roberts, who's that Emma who's not Emma Stone or Emma Watson. She spends most of her time and money entering contests and awards and not really getting anywhere. Finally her parents get tired of funding her efforts and so she gets a job at the local adult video store called Adult World. The name of the store and movie has a double meaning in that while working there she learns about becoming an adult.
Here are some lessons to take away from it:
1. You're Probably Not Special: Most of the movie Amy thinks she's bound to become a famous poet any day now. Many of her illusions are shattered when one of her poems ends up in an anthology called Shit Poetry, ie poetry that's so bad it's good. The lesson being that she's not as good as she thinks--and neither are you.
2. Don't Be Afraid to Sell Out: Amy's first real publication credit is in a French pornographic magazine. She writes an erotica story for a contest while drunk one night. I didn't have to get drunk to stoop to writing erotica stories. Like the characters who work at Adult World, I've found that it can be pretty lucrative to be in that business. So hey, why not sell out?
3. Choose Your Mentor Wisely: Besides working at Adult World, Amy also bullies her way into becoming the personal assistant to a has-been poet with the unlikely real name of Richard Simmons, played by John Cusack. She's idolized him for years, but eventually realizes--after he puts her poem in Shit Poetry--that at this point he's a bitter jerk. This, incidentally is why I never really wanted to meet my literary hero John Irving. I even wrote a short story about it called Spring in the Land of Broken Dreams, which is part of my collection The Carnival Papers. (Remember what I said about selling out?)
4. Dumb Luck is Better Than None At All: I already mentioned how Amy gets her first real publication credit. But also her best friend, who hasn't much experience writing poetry, gets her poem published on the first try--in a reputable publication no less. So while you probably aren't special (see #1) still, you should probably at least try once or twice, because you might luck into something good.
Anyway, overall I enjoyed the movie as a coming-of-age story with some tidbits of wisdom for writers of all sort, not just poets. I'm not sure if it's on Netflix or any of those. If you have Showtime, it might show up there a few more times as they seem to show the same half-dozen movies over and over again.