How Bradley Cooper Taught me to Write.

Last night, as per the grand Olkowski post-holiday tradition, my immediate family came home, exhausted and full of turkey and cousin-gossip, to gather around the television and find something on Netflix. This is probably the only time we all watch TV without eating anything. We’re all too full, and too tired to make popcorn or nachos or whatever. This year, we chose Limitless, a movie that came out earlier this year, starring Bradley Cooper and his enormous blue eyes.

LOOK AT THEM! (Credit to

Anyway, in the beginning, Bradley (Oh wow, I have no idea what his character’s name was, I just called him Bradley in my head the whole time) is an ugly (For Bradley Cooper), unkempt writer because in the world of movies, there are like three professions, and most people are just writers cause guess who made up this story? He is having a massive amount of trouble coming up with the first word of a novel he told all his friends he is writing. So for a whole day, he sits in his room and stares a the little blinking line on Microsoft Word.

Poor Bradley. This is my life. With a cleaner apartment and less facial hair. I believe I have whined about how hard it is to start writing a paper before this so I’ll stop now, but I would like to applaud the people who made Limitless, for this realistic portrayal of the writing process.

Of course Bradley’s ex-brother-in-law (wow that is a ton of dashes) gives him magical pills that unlock the rest of Bradley’s brain so he can do more things. And since Bradley is really a good writer deep down, he just lacks motivation and focus, he writes his landlord’s wife’s law paper in an afternoon and then writes his whole novel in four days.

This is what I look like when I finally manage to write something too! (Image from The New York Times)

Now, it’s obvious why Bradley starts off as a writer, rather than a lower level finance guy (he eventually uses his drug induced awesomeness to day trade). Besides the fact that all writers just love to write about writers (See: Stephen King novels, most chick flicks, YA books), Bradley gets to enact the primary fantasy of all writers, professional or student. The drug doesn’t make you superhuman. It doesn’t give you powers or make your brain bigger or whatever. It simply makes what is already there available, like Advanced Search Google for your brain. Bradley is already capable of writing this book, he just has not been able to access it before. The lesson of Limitless, besides “doing drugs doesn’t really have that many consequences if you’re smart about it,” is that everyone has the potential to do great things if they could only be clear-headed and focused.

The dream of the writer is that there is a book/poem/song/paper lurking somewhere beneath the surface, and that if we all just stare at the blinking line long enough, we’ll find it. The problem is that if we wait for our subsurface genius to magically show itself, we’ll never get anything done. Limitless was also about how achieving greatness is partially just taking the step to DO something. One of the first things Bradley does when he gets on the drug is clean his apartment, something he obviously could have handled normally, but never had the motivation to just start and finish. Writing is the same way.  You never gets done unless you gets started.

So for my next paper (my 5th in three weeks), I am not going to whine about it, or stare at Microsoft Word, willing it to appear. I’m going to just get started so I can get finished. I have every ability to write it, just an irritating lack of focus and motivation, which is really no excuse. Hopefully, by following the example of Bradley (with the motivation, not the drug taking, and the murdering, and the day trading), I can just write this without waiting until the last minute (literally) and without some of the melodrama that has been a big part of the last 4 papers.


Leave a Reply