Through the Dark Forest: Ted Lasso for Writers

Recently I mentioned I’m a fan of the TV show Ted Lasso. Don’t worry, I won’t give anything away here, if you haven’t seen it yet. This is what you need to know: The bumbling, ever-positive Ted (played by an amusingly mustachioed Jason Sudeikis) is an American college football coach hired to coach a ragtag football club across the pond (yep, “soccer” to us here). He literally knows zip about British football. But what he does have to offer is folksy advice—often unsolicited, but always on-point—for those who need a little motivation. Or a lot.

Taken together, Ted-isms add up to your garden-variety formula for success: hard work, perseverance, luck, empathy, thinking outside the box, a sense of humor. He also regularly offers something that’s in short supply these days: Hope.

Then came an episode that made me sit up from my comfy spot on the couch and almost drop my bowl of ice cream. Coach Lasso had uttered the perfect writing quote. Onscreen, he was giving someone a pep talk re: the challenges of life—but it was also a concise explanation of story structure:

“Fairy tales do not start, nor do they end, at the dark forest. That’s only something that shows up smack dab in the middle of the story, but it will all work out. It may not work out how you think it will or how you hope it does. But believe me, it will all work out, exactly as it’s supposed to.”

How’s that for the Hero’s Journey? Also, pretty much every writer’s manuscript-in-progress.

I soon realized Ted had plenty of other great advice for writers. Quotes are always open to interpretation, of course (looking at you, English 101), but here are some of my favorite Lasso-isms:

RE: The Writing Process

Taking on a challenge is a lot like ridin’ a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it you’re probably doin’ it wrong.

Translation: Writing is hard. And it has nothing to do with your chair or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

RE: Trolls

You know why the goldfish is the happiest animal on earth? Got a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish.

Everyone’s a critic. And sometimes people can be downright mean. If you must read those one-star reviews, be a goldfish.

RE: Editing

Don’t you dare settle for fine.

In the show, a character was referring to romantic relationships, but I think the message for writers is clear: Revise, revise, revise.

RE: Motivational Snacks

Let yourself enjoy that biscuit.

Translated from the Brit, this means, “Go ahead and have that cookie.” Really. You deserve it, after expending all that mental energy (and physical, too, if you count the trips to the fridge and sharpening pencils). Should you need additional permission, here’s another morsel from Ted:  

I never met someone who didn’t eat sugar. I’ve only heard about them, and they live in this God awful place called Santa Monica.

And don’t forget Ted’s motto, displayed in a one-word, hand-printed sign above the door of the team locker room. I have an identical sign posted on the back of my office door. I give it a tap every day on my way out to the field. I mean, pitch. Whoopsie doodle-do, my bad again. On the way to my computer.


Readers, do you have an inspirational quote to share? Or are they not your cup of tea (aka “absolute garbage water,” according to Ted)? Let us know in the comments below!

36 thoughts on “Through the Dark Forest: Ted Lasso for Writers

    1. The late, great Nora Ephron, from her 1996 Commencement address at Wellesley College: “Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”

      Liked by 4 people

  1. I like Robert A. Heinlein’s advice:

    1.) You must write.
    2.) You must finish what you write.
    3.) You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
    4.) You must put the work on the market.
    5.) You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Heinlein was focused on success, which means getting your work out there to sell. I’m sure that with all that raw talent, he needed to revise a lot less than many, but he also realized that a work on the typewriter (or the hard drive) earns nothing. Besides, when’s the last time you had an editor tell you there was nothing to change? Might as well let ’em earn their keep…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa – we recently discovered TL and what a joy in these troubled times!

    For me, any by Eleanor Roosevelt – ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’ or the glorious RBG – ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.’

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Having grown up in Santa Monica, all I can say is: Ha! (Though in my defense, it was a far different place back when I lived there in the ’60s and early ’70s than it is now.)

    One of my favorite writing quotes comes from my law professor father: “There are only two times I’m miserable—when I’m writing and when I’m not writing.” No, it’s not terribly inspirational, but it is so very true!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I haven’t seen the show yet, Lisa, but you’ve inspired me to check it out! I’m guessing Ted is a coffee kind of guy, since you’ve told us what he thinks of tea!

    Since writing and being semi-alert generally involves coffee, here’s my favorite new coffee quote:
    “The fact is, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer. The only real answer is to drink way too much coffee and buy yourself a desk that doesn’t collapse when you beat your head against it.” —DOUGLAS ADAMS

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Lisa, these are GREAT. As to an important quote for me, it’s “Are you interested or committed?” I built a whole keynote speech around this one sentence. I heard it in WW. Turns out my I’m more interest than committed to losing weight, lol!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My favorite advice to writers is “writers write” and “don’t edit as you go.”

    But something I think of all the time is a line I heard in a movie once, “Are you waving or drowning?”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow, we are gathering some fantastic quotes here! And the waving/drowning quote, ha. (I tried to look it up and saw there was actually a movie titled similarly. Not Waving, But Drowning (2013). Sounded like a real downer (surprising?).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, funny, but no, that wasn’t it. Patricia Clarkson was in it and I’ve looked for it several times, but can’t find it. I really liked it, too! She was in the throes of depression, and whenever anyone asked her how she was doing she’d say, “I’m still washing my hair.” I’ve always thought that was an excellent bar to set for your mood.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m also a fan of Ted Lasso. Clever, funny and uplifting. So refreshing.

    My favorite quote is “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” – Thomas Edison. An oldie but a goodie.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This show has been on my list, and these quotes have boosted it to the tippy-top!

    Not sure if this counts as inspirational, but I thought this quote from Better Off Dead applies to a lot of things in life:

    “Go that way, really fast. If something gets your way, turn.”

    Words to live (and write) by!

    Liked by 1 person

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