James Caan, playing a writer in the movie adapted from Stephen King’s novel Misery, wakes up after a car wreck in the home of an obsessed fan, Kathy Bates, who had rescued him. Crippled and immobilized by the accident, Caan is trapped in Bates’ cabin, and soon discovers she is a dangerous, psycho-baby-killing, ex-nurse who is demanding that he continue writing a mystery series about a character, Misery Chastain, that he is sick of, but she adores.
To get her favorite author’s attention and to encourage him to return to the Misery series, Kathy Bates employs highly effective, though unorthodox, motivational strategies that involve death threats, terrifying rages, restraints, narcotics, large knives, and ankle sledgehammering. As a validation of her controversial techniques, we see a reluctant James Caan successfully overcoming his initial inability to write this book. Soon he is writing with vigor and a renewed sense of purpose.
When your writing becomes misery, it’s murder to keep working at it consistently. This is especially true if you do not want to write the piece you are working on. We all have had this experience in school, and those teachers who used Kathy Bates methods were hated, even if they did get us to produce. The problem with this extreme approach is, a tremendous amount of resentment and fearbecomes associated with writing in our mind, which may later on lead to avoidance and anguish with writing projects we actually want to do.
In reality, a bit of fear may be useful if you have a powerful resistance to writing, but something short of a sledgehammer is probably sufficient do the trick.
In the end, Kathy Bates gets her Misery Chastain book out of James Caan. However, she also gets bludgeoned to death before she can read it. This is one reason I am hesitant to adopt her methods in my own work with writers.