3 Unimpeachable Truths Friday Night Lights Taught Me About Writing

Do you remember life before Hulu? I do and it was terrible. You see, for the past decade, I have not owned a TV. Sure, I heard about phenomenons such as Grey’s Anatomy and Heroes but only in passing. Without a trusty screen, I was lost in a world teeming with pop culture references I could not understand. Just who, exactly, was McDreamy? How on earth would a cheerleader save the world? Consider the immense loneliness of a world without these answers. I was stunted, stuck in the WB’s glory days when Dawson Leery and Felicity ruled the tween screen. But then, without much fanfare, Hulu came into existence. Netflix and Amazon started streaming whole television series. And this, my friends, is how I found Friday Night Lights. I say this with the same reverence a born again might say “I found Jesus” because in Coach and Tami Taylor I found my spiritual mentors. Just as they did with their wayward students, the Taylors showed me how to live a life filled with integrity, compassion, and pride. More than that, they taught me 3 Unimpeachable Truths about writing.

1. Simple is Beautiful: Coach Taylor boiled his team’s raison d’etre down to one simple yet epically powerful rallying cry: Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Papa Hemingway would be proud. Yes, there is always a time for the baroque—where would David Foster Wallace be without his wily, delicious multi-clausal sentences—but some of the most truthful moments in FNL occur with the fewest words, which is also true for many great moments in literature (hello, “It was a pleasure to burn,” Fahrenheit 451’s opening line).

2. Scene, Scene, Scene: The reason why FNL can get away with such sparse dialogue (particularly with Tim Riggins and Matt Saracen) is because of its gorgeous scenes. Paired with thoughtful character and plot development, injecting a scene with visual cinematography and sensory details pumps up writing of any genre. *Spoiler Alert.* Consider the scene where Saracen breaks into the funeral home where his dead father (a soldier who was blown up by an IED) lies. Saracen tells the funeral director, “I want to see my father.” The director responds, “Son, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Saracen insists. The camera scans from Saracen’s three friends, then to Saracen as he opens the casket, then back to his friends’ faces as they watch the pain wash across Saracen when he finally sees his father. Words do not exist here because words cannot. For readers, we rely on the world the writer has created for us and let our emotions mingle with the text. This mental interaction makes a writer’s inanimate words live.

3. Believe: Everything about writing is hard. I often feel like there is no point. And perhaps there is none. But Coach Taylor taught me to believe in the thing that seems most impossible. For him, it was molding troubled teens into a united team. For me it is writing. But with all the failure that comes with writing, there is also immense joy and gratitude. Writing allows me to be vulnerable, to seek challenges, and to believe that there is a point to all the heartache after all. So thank you, Coach Taylor: Texas forever—and ever.


Amy Lee Scott received an MFA from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. There, among other things, she learned how to pop corn the right way–in a heavy pot over medium heat. She and her husband live in Dearborn, Michigan where she is working on a collection of essays about loss, memory and adoption. Her writing and mounting obsession with roadside oddities can be found at: http://clubnarwhal.blogspot.com/

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2 Responses to 3 Unimpeachable Truths Friday Night Lights Taught Me About Writing

  1. Pingback: 3 Things Taylor Swift Knows That Every Writer Should | Sundog Lit Blog

  2. Pingback: 3 Writerly Do’s and Don’t’s Gleaned from J.J. Abrams’ ALIAS | Sundog Lit Blog

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