Everyone has a book in them; at least that is what I have heard in more settings than I care to count. It is true that everyone has a story, and each story is unique. Whether the owner of that story can produce a compelling narrative that captures the attention of others is (pun intended) another story. I have read a lot in my life and over the past few years purposefully chosen a rather eclectic path of literary discovery. Between my own hit and miss attempts at writing and the many non-fiction and fiction pages I have read, I can declare with authority that everyone does not have a book in them.
So what makes the difference in someone with a story in them and someone who can tell a story in such a way others will pay to read it? Of course, the ability to put two words together correctly is important but more often than not the difference is something more basic. More often than not, what separates a story that doesn’t make it and one that does is a willingness on the writer’s part to learn from his or her own mistakes.
The sophomore TV drama, Revolution is a case in point. Its first year was a veritable case study in hits and misses. The internet is awash with experts (i.e. bloggers whose following amounts to the number in J.J. Abrams’ upstairs maid staff), and if you read any of them you would assume that they are much better story tellers than Abrams can ever hope to be. I am sure he worries about that while counting up his dollars from everything from Alias, to LOST, to the last two Stark Trek movies, and his upcoming gig as the chief master mind of the Star Wars reboot. Predictions of the show’s early demise abounded along with pseudo experts on everything from nano-technology to correct hair styles for those living in a post-apocalyptic world 15 years in the future.
Then an unusual thing happened in Hollywood land: rather than ignore his critics, Abrams and his writers learned from the rousing successes and miserable failure of the first season. After this year’s second season premiere, many of the show’s staunchest critics applauded Abram’s creative team for learning from its mistakes. One lead character that most critics despised was Charlie. They agreed that Charlie is now much more believable as an almost twenty-something struggling to act like an adult ahead of her time instead of a spoiled teenager having a bad hair day. One of last year’s particularly harsh critics loved the writer’s lighthearted nod to how much Charlie was disliked in the first season when her uncle Miles said to her in this year’s season opener, “Try and keep your stupid to a minimum,” while Charlie endearingly smiled at the caution.
It really doesn’t matter if you like, hate or for that matter never watch a TV show about a world with no power where everything has fallen apart. What does matter is to learn the lesson of growing better from all the hits and misses in life. For most people, there will be plenty of both across a lifetime.
The best writers put out a lot of garbage. Stephen King threw his first full-length novel in the garbage only to have his wife dig it out and demand he not give up. Thomas Edison had a warehouse that served as a museum to his failures and a reminder of his small percentage of successes. Not to be trite but … the only difference in most successes and failures is that the person with the successes doesn’t stop at the first failure, or the second, or – you get the picture.