I love books that offer lessons about getting ahead, writing, and managing a business, and yet aren’t about those things specifically. What I mean is, I enjoy reading about how people are succeeding in the writing life in a totally unique way. That’s one reason I picked up How to Succeed In Business Without Really Crying by Carol Leifer.
Leifer has been nominated for four Emmy’s for her writing work on shows like Seinfeld, Saturday Night Live, and the Academy Awards. She’s been on Late Night With David Lettermen over two dozen times, as well as a host of other talk shows. I was interested in her take on things given that she’s in the male-dominated world of comedy.
Part Memoir, Part Business Advice Book
This book was filled with advice combined with Leifer’s own personal stories and photos. It was interesting to see some of the comics and talk show hosts of today (like Paul Reiser, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jay Leno) in early pictures from their college days. It was a testament to the power of relationships that Leifer held on to these friendships. Many of these guys were very helpful in encouraging her and teaching her about the craft.
Often, she learned by observing, taking things that worked for others and making it her own. I related to this advice because I think very often we try and copy what someone else’s is doing as writers and it just doesn’t work. You still need to do what’s right and works for you individually.
A lot of the advice centered around being “present.” This means paying attention, noticing opportunities, and taking care of yourself. These are big points for writers because you’re not always given an opportunity that is clear cut. Very often you need to hammer it out for yourself, and in order to do that you need to be tenacious and take care of yourself mentally and physically.
Trying Again and Again Without Getting Held Back by Failure
So often when I read these books, the advice is about counting your successes and letting the times you fell flat on your face fade from your memory. This is true of Leifer’s book as well. She even mentions walking up to a famous Hollywood star and not having him remember her. She could have walked away mortified, but she held her head high and chalked it up to experience.
One time she mentioned being on Celebrity Apprentice and being the first one eliminated. Awful! Yet instead of getting down about it, she asked Donald Trump for a donation to her charity as she was being asked to leave. He obliged, and her charity benefited from her appearance on the show.
I think as a writer persistence is key, and this book breezily talked about how to keep pitching, keep tossing ideas out there, keep contacting people, and doing it as if it’s just part of the daily job. And it is. Writers will find that part very valuable.