How Thinking Like Johnny Depp Can Help Your Writing

Johnny Depp — aside from having looks that cause heart palpitations in women across the world — has a unique approach to his career: he doesn’t watch his movies. Specifically, his acting philosophy is solely centered on his craft, not on the product. He says, “I just prefer the experience. I like the experience, I like the process, I like doing the work.”

So many authors that I’ve worked with can get too wrapped up in the “end product.” It’s only natural — after all, having a goal of a published book in mind is what drives so many authors to finish the grueling writing process. But, what happens when we embrace Mr. Depp’s craft-oriented work ethic?

Here are 3 ways to write like Johnny Depp acts:

1. Know that mastering the craft is a lifelong process — not a one-time-and-it’s-done kind of thing.

If you’ve read any advice from writing greats like Ernest Hemingway, Joan Didion or John Steinbeck, you know that even those we all regard to be literary masters still wrote every day. There’s a reason why they continued to practice, practice, practice: there’s always room to improve your writing. Embracing Johnny Depp’s philosophy forces writers to live in the moment, and appreciate the very act of stringing together words, sentences and chapters.

Especially for writers who struggle with writing a certain amount of words a day, this is a very zen way to approach your craft, which might open up your mind to new possibilities and help you find joy — not stress — in writing.

2. Remember that focusing on the end-product can force writers to chase perfection — which isn’t possible.

It’s interesting that such a famous movie star like Depp isn’t even interested in seeing himself on a gigantic screen. But, I can see the appeal. Think about how watching yourself can cause even the least vain of actors to scrutinize every wrinkle, or criticize every delivery of a line.

Your duty as author is not to create a work of perfection; your duty is to produce a well-crafted work that speaks your message or tells a story to readers in the most effective way possible. Don’t ask yourself: “Is this perfect?” Instead, ask: “Will readers understand exactly what I mean here? How can I make this more powerful or effective?”

Steinbeck didn’t sit down one day and decide that he wanted to be famous or write a perfect book — he simply wrote because it was his passion to do so.

3. Write what you’re passionate about — not what you think will sell.

Sure, Johnny Depp is known for some mega blockbuster hits — The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, for instance — but he also chooses interesting, eccentric roles in what come to be lesser known movies. Yet, all of his characters are intriguing and real. It’s as if he’s not the one choosing roles for a movie; the characters are the ones that choose him.

Write what you love to write about, even if you don’t see a market out there for it. You may discover something about yourself that you wouldn’t have otherwise.


Photo Credit: Arnold Wells [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

8 comments on “How Thinking Like Johnny Depp Can Help Your Writing

  • Hi Diane! The manuscript you helped me with has already garnered media interest. A TV production agency has contacted me about using my book “Plunder of the Ancients” as part of their series about women doing undercover work. The book isn’t even out yet!! (Oct. 7, 2014). Wow! Lucinda

    PS: They found me on my website http://www.plunderoftheancients

  • I think it’s important for us to focus on process. In the preschool where I am an administrator I remind teachers doing art activities as well as other lessons to let the process lead. If the children are having fun they will learn. And this is true for us writers. I love the process of writing but when I start thinking about whether or not I have a commercial enough idea of if my novel, short story or poem will sell, I lose momentum and tend to give up. Why waste all that time if the product will just sit in a drawer when I could be outdoors soaking up nature. But if i just start writing and not think about the end result I get lost in the work and glory in honoring my passion and my calling.

    • Hi Renee,

      You bring up some really great points. It’s so easy for many writers (particularly because writing can be such a lonely craft) to get lost in the trenches of self-doubt. But, even writing for a few focused minutes a day can bring new insights about your writing identity and your writing process. Also keep in mind that when you start thinking about whether or not your book will sell or is a good enough idea, it’s key to reach out to those in your writing community for support and encouragement. I think you’re doing great Renee! Thank you for chiming in.

      Warm Regards,

      PS. Remember—you can always write outside, too. 🙂

  • Quite often when I write in my Dear God journal and also write down profound thoughts that spontaneously come to mind, I don’t read it for months and sometimes years. The profound thoughts have accumulated over a 10 year period to over 200 quotes & opinions by Sharon-which I’m turning into a book. Never did I set out to write a book and I still have years of writings I still haven’t read. When I do start reading my writings, I’m at times surprised and amazed what I have written.

    • Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for your comment. You’ve brought up a great example of an exercise writers of any genre can incorporate into their writing routine.


  • Thank you for posting this. It is a great reminder that we write because there is a beast within us that quiets only when we put words onto a page.
    I am glad I stumbled upon your website. I look forward to reading more.

  • Hi Diane: I believe that when you’re actively writing, your brain “writes” when you’re away from the computer. Ideas, great lines and words pop into your mind at the weirdest times. Pen and paper at hand is a must! As for editors, I couldn’t agree with you more. I worked with a copy editor and a manuscript editor on my book “Plunder of the Ancients-A True Story of Betrayal, Redemption and an Undercover Quest to Recover Sacred Native American Artifacts” but YOU were the only editor I worked with who helped me with STORY. This made a huge difference! You discovered the most illuminating elements of my characters (who were real people) and made them shine in ways I would have never thought of.

    So, I’m a great fan of getting outside editors for manuscript help. The editors provided by publishers don’t do that much. BTW, I got a great blurb from Anne Hillerman the other day!

    Release date 10/7/14 Can’t wait! Lucinda

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