Keith MacKenzie 26 letters. A million and more words. No limit to stories.

Writing with messianic determination

A few years – decades, even? – ago, I was watching David Letterman and his cheeky gap-toothed New York humour as was the norm of my late nights, and this time, Peter O’Toole was one of the guests on the show.

I’ve seen many actors, actresses and celebrities (yes, that’s a third category) on Letterman and I’ve always found the best interviews to be with the older stock. People like O’Toole, former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and Robert Mitchum, among others.

There’s many a colourful raconteur among groups like these, wholly unlike the stiff-mouthed girly cuteness of young’uns like Taylor Lautner of Twilight misfamy and giggly Barbie dolls such as Kate Upton.

One grand story O’Toole told during his interview was about the day they were filming one of the grand scenes from Lawrence of Arabia. He wasn’t up to riding a camel so – being the liquor lover he was – proceeded to get all pished up with Omar Sharif in a tent in the hot desert sun.

When the film assistants tracked him down for his shoot, he was properly shitfaced but tried his very best to pull off the scene despite not being ready. Yes, even actors can’t just call in sick. They still have a job to do.

Later, when the movie was out, a movie reviewer lavished praise all over what was considered a great film all around. He wrote about a glorious scene where good Lawrence soared down a sand dune on his camel with a look of “messianic determination” on his face.

O’Toole finished his story saying that this man, the glorious British historic figure with that steely look of “messianic determination” on his face was, in fact, a drunk actor. Of course, laughter burst all around.

Two things I learned from this:

1) Those from the older generation have many great stories to tell, and often, they tell them well. Listen to them, before it’s too late. Listen to the stories themselves, and listen to the way the stories are told. You’re bound to get inspired to write some stories of your own.

2) Even great actors like Peter O’Toole can pull off the job when pissed out of their skulls. You, as a writer, don’t have to be messianic or determined in order to spin a great story on paper. You just have to do it, and sometimes, you may end up doing your best – and most memorable work – when you’re wholly unprepared to write.

So, ass in seat. Pen to paper. Fingers to keyboard. You know the drill. Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network


Four books in the fire. Dozens of short stories fluttering about. Mission: To get the word out.

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